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  • Unsung Southpaws

    They’re not top prospects. They weren’t drafted in the early rounds, and they didn’t get hefty bonuses. They have jobs in the offseason, and they still find time to continue to work on their baseball craft.

    David Hurlbut and Matt Tomshaw are two left-handed pitchers for the Ft. Myers Miracle. You likely haven’t read much about them unless, of course, you get a copy of the annual Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. Or, if you read the daily minor league reports religiously, you know their names because they continue to pitch really well.

    So, let’s take a day and give them their due.

    David Hurlbut was the Minnesota Twins 35th round pick in 2009 out of Diablo Valley College. He decided not to sign and instead chose to attend perennial powerhouse Cal State Fullerton. In 2011, the Twins selected him with their 28th round pick.

    Matt Tomshaw was drafted by the Twins in the 43rd round of the 2011 draft. He attended Jacksonville University where he was a teammate of Twins outfield prospects Adam Brett Walker and Jonathan Murphy. After being selected, he made three starts in the GCL before making a spot appearance with the Ft. Myers Miracle. He ended up posting a 2.13 ERA in 25.1 innings (7 games, 4 starts).

    In 2012, both of them started the season in the bullpen in Beloit. There were “prospects” that needed to start, so the tandem was sent to the bullpen. They were good in that role, and eventually each was given an opportunity to start. When I posted my 2012 Minnesota Twins Minor League Starting Pitchers of the Year, they both were in the Top 5 in the organization.

    In 111 innings (15 starts, 10 relief), Hurlbut posted a 2.76 ERA. Tomshaw missed about a month, but he pitched well in his time in Beloit as well. In 86.1 innings (6 relief, then 14 starts), he posted a 3.02 ERA.

    Despite the success in Beloit in 2012, they were both sent back to the Midwest League, this time to Cedar Rapids. Not only did they repeat at the level, but instead of starting (where they had very good success, they were in the bullpen).

    Tomshaw missed some time early in the season (you know, “DL” stuff) and made just nine appearances with the Kernels. His ERA was 5.10, but as a starter, he was better, and he moved to Ft. Myers in late May. There, he pitched in 17 games and made 14 starts. He posted an ERA of 3.94 in 96.1 innings.

    Hurlbut pitched in more roles. He began the season in long relief. At one point when Tyler Jones was hurt, he became the closer for a month, and then he made three starts for the Kernels. All told, he pitched in 25 games (and 50 innings) for the Kernels. He was 3-1 with a 2.52 ERA. He received his promotion to the Miracle in early August where he made four starts and had a 3.54 ERA in 20.1 innings.

    This year, they both returned to the Miracle, and they both returned to the bullpen. However, both made just three relief appearances before being put into the starting rotation.

    Tomshaw is 2-1 with a 2.31 ERA. After going four innings and giving up one run in his first start, he has gone six innings without allowing an earned run in each of his last two starts.

    Photo by Linwood FergusonHurlbut is 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 39 innings. He gave up just one run in his eight innings out of the bullpen. In his five starts, he has given up just six earned runs in 32 innings. On May 8, he threw a complete game against Jupiter and gave up just two runs (1 earned). Last night, he gave up just two runs (1 earned) in seven innings.

    Neither has the “stuff” that fits the “top prospect” mold, but both have three good pitches, good control and a high baseball IQ.

    Hurlbut generally sits around 88 to 89 mph with his fastball, though he hits 91 at times, so he made it cut a bit, giving it more movement and helping him miss the sweet spot of bats. He has a very good curveball in the mid-70s, and his changeup continues to improve.

    Tomshaw generally sat 85 to 87 mph, though out of the bullpen last year, I saw him hit 91 a couple of times. This year, he has been consistently between 87 and 91. He has a very good changeup, and his work-in-progress pitch is the curveball. When it is on, it can be very tough on left-handers. And, he is again throwing The Thing, a pitch you'll need to ask him about!!

    Impeccable control is part of the success of both of them. In 286.1 professional innings, Hurlbut has walked 1.8 per nine innings and struck out 6.7 per nine innings. Tomshaw has thrown 280.2 innings as a pro and walked 1.8 per nine innings. He has struck out 6.1 per nine innings.

    Despite putting up good numbers and not allowing many runs and keeping their teams in games, neither David Hurlbut or Matt Tomshaw will appear on anyone’s Top 30 or even Top 50 prospect lists. Fair or not, that is the reality. True or not, Tomshaw and Hurlbut will continue to pitch in the Twins system as long as they continue to pitch as they have as they move up the ladder.
    Neither was a high draft pick with the security of a big bonus. However, the Twins have shown in the past that if you perform, no matter where you’re drafted or how you get signed, there will be opportunities.

    Tomshaw was drafted in the 43rd round, a round that no longer exists in the MLB draft. However, New Britain’s Cole Johnson and Rochester’s AJ Achter are pitching very well in the late innings for their teams, and they also were drafted after the 40th round. Anthony Slama was a 39th round pick. Michael Tonkin was a 30th round pick. Cole De Vries wasn’t drafted. If you perform, you’ll keep getting opportunities to move up.

    That will be the challenge for these two left-handers. They will need to continue to work and improve to meet the challenges of each new level. Tomshaw (25) and Hurlbut (24) have been teammates along most of their path since being drafted late in that 2011 draft, and I’m sure they’ll continue to push themselves to keep getting better.

    So while it’s great to talk about the Buxton’s, the Sano’s, the Meyer’s, the Stewart's and the like, remember there are some tremendous stories of some minor leaguers who don’t get the accolades, but continue to work hard every day.

    At Twins Daily, we want to make sure they are recognized. Matt Tomshaw and David Hurlbut deserve to be recognized.

    Photos in this story by Linwood Ferguson, Ft. Myers Miracle.
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Mauerpower's Avatar
      Mauerpower -
      Thank you for the well written article Seth! Both are great stories. I wish the best of luck to Hurlbut and Tomshaw (awesome names btw!).
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Very good people too who do put in a lot of work. Their velocity keeps increasing a little each year, and that's encouraging!
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Fun article. Puts them at the forefront of my thoughts when I examine who's who coming up. Being able to "pitch" should never be underestimated as a talent, but often is. I wonder, if they resist the temptation to "throw hard" will they be able to maintain or gain velocity to keep them consistently in the high 80's and low 90 range.

      Personally, I have very high hopes for Darnell as well, obviously much higher up the ladder. I'm very encouraged by his start to the year in Rochester, and while his Twins appearance was short, and he was reportedly pumped to throw a little harder than normal, it was nonetheless a nice cup of coffee.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      This is one of the real fun parts about pretty much any sport. I mean, I love the superstar-from-day-one Buxton types as much as anyone, especially if they're on my team. But there's something gratifying to those of us who aren't genetic freaks in seeing people succeed by working hard and doing things the right way. Best of luck to both of them going forward.
    1. Too Much Twins's Avatar
      Too Much Twins -
      Dope write-up Seth. Your constant positivity and insistence on recognizing the underappreciated is inspiring. Hurlbut is a personal favorite of mine: a consistent, above-average performer in any role asked of him (which has been pretty much every role there is).
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Too Much Twins View Post
      Dope write-up Seth. Your constant positivity and insistence on recognizing the underappreciated is inspiring. Hurlbut is a personal favorite of mine: a consistent, above-average performer in any role asked of him (which has been pretty much every role there is).
      I really appreciate that. Thank you! I definitely enjoy these types of stories as well.
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