From a starting pitcher, I will mention Win-Loss record although it doesn’t really factor into the rankings. I do look a little bit more at ERA with starters than relievers, and WHIP is always important. Limiting base runners is a good way to limit runs allowed. For prospect status, strikeouts are important, but for this, I think that it’s important to look at walks and strikeouts in combination, and do so relative to innings pitched. And please remember, we are talking about a very small sample size of four to five starts. One of these pitchers mentioned below was the obvious choice as top starting pitcher for April until he struggled in his fifth start of the month. (So, how would you weigh one bad start with four terrific ones?)
It can be a little subjective, but let's take a look at the top starting pitchers for the season’s first month.
Number 6 – Beloit – Tim Shibuya - 5 GS, 1-1, 3.00 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 24.0 IP, 30 H, 4 BB, 22 K
Last year’s Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year had a solid first month in full-season ball. He started off a little slow, giving up some hits, but he stayed true to form and ended up with some solid numbers. He is the definition of a Twins pitcher, throwing strikes and yet, as you can see, he struck out nearly a batter per inning. He has a strong four-pitch mix that should succeed in the Midwest League.
Number 5 - Rochester – Cole DeVries - 4 GS, 0-1, 2.91 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 21.2 IP, 16 H, 6 BB, 23 K
Last April, DeVries was the easy selection as Twins minor league relief pitcher of April. After bouncing between the bullpen and rotation in 2011, he started in the AFL and enters 2012 as a starter as well. He had a terrific initial month to his season. He has terrific control and has found a way to get more and more strikeouts. He has good stuff, and he has been around for a while. He has also gained a little velocity on his fastball.
Number 4 - Beloit – Jason Wheeler - 5 GS, 3-0, 2.33 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 27.0 IP, 26 H, 6 BB, 19 K
Last August, Jason Wheeler waited until the last day to sign with the Twins after they made him their 8th round draft pick out of Loyola Marymount. His first pro experience came in the Florida Instructional League, and this spring he made his official professional debut with the Snappers. The tall, burly south paw made a good impression. Two years ago, he was the pitcher of the year in the Northwoods League.
Number 3 – Rochester – Scott Diamond - 5 GS, 4-1, 2.84 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 31.2 IP, 32 H, 5 BB, 24 K
Before his most recent start of the month (in which he gave up seven earned runs in six innings, he was the easy choice for the top minor league pitcher of the month. However, we can’t completely ignore that last start. It happened and affected his month’s numbers, but nowhere near far enough to keep him out of the top three. The lefty clearly made some adjustments from last year when he really struggled at AAA and with the Twins. The biggest thing might be a better defense behind him because he will need to rely on defense.
Number 2 – New Britain – Luke French - 5 GS, 2-0, 1.80 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 30 IP, 17 H, 12 BB, 18 K
The Twins signed the left-handed former big leaguer shortly before the start of spring training. He went to minor league camp and despite a big league past, he started his season at AA New Britain. As should be expected, he had little problem with the level. Six of his walks came in one of his outings and he was able to wiggle out of trouble a couple of times. He was promoted to AAA Rochester and is expected to start on Wednesday in place of Sam Deduno.
And the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is:
Ft. Myers – BJ Hermsen - 4 GS, 1-0, 0.78 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 23 IP, 16 H, 5 BB, 12 K
Hermsen had a terrific 2011 season for the Twins organization. He spent most of the year in Beloit where he went 11-7 with a 3.10 ERA. He was promoted to Ft. Myers and made five starts. He made four starts in April for the Miracle before being promoted to AA New Britain where he is expected to make his first start for the Rock Cats tonight. Hermsen is not a pitcher who misses bats, so he relies on a strong mix of pitches. Despite a 6-6 frame, he doesn’t overpower hitters, and yet, when you look at the numbers, he gets results. Double-A may be a challenge for him, but he has earned this opportunity. A 6th round pick in the 2008 draft, the Twins will have to decide after the season whether to put him on the 40 man roster or not. We will see what happens going forward, but for April 2012, he was the Twins top minor league starting pitcher.
(photo courtesy Jim Crikket, Knuckleballs)
What do you think? I listed six pitchers here that got off to a nice start this season. There were not a lot of other choices. Who would your choice be? How would you rank these guys (and feel free to include others)?
Be sure to check back later in the day for the April Starting Pitcher and Hitter of April. Also, tonight at 9:00 central time, you can listen to the SethSpeaks Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast while watching the start of the Twins/Angels game.