• A History Lesson: Twins Pitching - Draft Edition

    I was scanning through box scores this morning, pausing on the box score of the Twins' latest defeat and suddenly I had a particular curiosity. After writing yesterday about how an organizational change in philosophy is needed, I thought, "Besides the Twins current lot of mediocre pitchers, who else is out there that has come through the Minor League system with the club...what have been their results?" As I compiled the list, with the the help of some of my twitter followers (@KirbysLeftEye, @Robert_Short, @trtx84, @thisisbeth, and @SethTweets), another question became rather obvious... what has the Twins farm system really produced in the way of pitching in the last 10-15 years?

    The list of home-grown Twins pitchers, excluding anyone on the current roster, is actually fairly short... shorter than I thought it would be. I didn't differentiate between starters or relievers -- the only requirement was that the pitcher had to have come up (more or less) through the Twins farm system and had to have reached the Majors at some point in his career. Here's the list:

    *Matt Garza - currently a starting pitcher for the Cubs
    *Jose Mijares - currently a reliever for the Royals
    *Kevin Slowey - currently in the Minor League system for the Indians
    *Jesse Crain - currently a reliever for the White Sox (on the DL)
    *Pat Neshek - currently in the Minor League system for the Orioles
    *J.C. Romero - currently a reliever for the Cardinals
    *LaTroy Hawkins - currently a reliever for the Angels
    *Kyle Lohse - currently a starting pitcher for the Cardinals
    *Grant Balfour - currently the closer for the Athletics

    ** Notable names missing from this list include Johan Santana (a Rule 5 selection who only spent one year in the Twins Minor League system), Matt Guerrier (taken off waivers from the Pirates in 2003), and Carlos Silva (came over in the Eric Milton trade).

    Here's another list - of pitchers the Twins have drafted in the first or second round since 2000 (source):

    2000 - Adam Johnson, Aaron Heilman, J.D. Durbin
    2001 - Scott Tyler
    2002 - Jesse Crain
    2003 - Scott Baker
    2004 - Glen Perkins, Kyle Waldrop, Matt Fox, Jay Rainville, Anthony Swarzak
    2005 - Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey
    2006 -
    2007 -
    2008 - Carlos Gutierrez, Shooter Hunt
    2009 - Kyle Gibson, Matt Bashore, Billy Bullock
    2010 - Alex Wimmers
    2011 - Hudson Boyd, Madison Boer

    When you look at that list, one thing should pop out to you and that is this fact: the Twins have not produced even ONE big-league pitcher drafted within the first two rounds of the draft in the past 6 years. The last couple of draft classes excluded (for obvious reasons) the Twins have only drafted ONE pitcher in the first two rounds who even stands a decent chance to be a Major Leaguer and that is Kyle Gibson who is currently on the DL after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. Since 2006, the Twins have drafted only two pitchers anywhere in the draft who have reached the Majors: Jeff Manship (14th round, 2006) and Anthony Slama (39th round, 2006), both of whom are currently pitching for AAA Rochester.

    Maybe suggesting that the Twins need an "organizational change in philosophy" is putting the cart before the horse. Perhaps what really is needed is a change in the methods (or the personnel) that this team uses to scout young talent. (Side note: It's interesting when you take a look at the tenures of the current members in the Twins scouting department. Deron Johnson, the Twins current Director of Scouting started in 2007, the same year Bill Smith took over as GM.) To be fair, most other teams in MLB have only had a small handful of pitchers drafted in '06-'11 reach the Majors, but the Twins currently have zero.

    Another thing to point out here is the hit-or-miss nature of drafting pitchers...it's like drafting a starting quarterback in the NFL. Unless you're looking at a Stephen Strasburg type who is clearly a big-league commodity when drafted, it's difficult to project what a pitcher's potential will be 2-5 years down the line when they finally make it to the Big Leagues. That said, prior to 2006 the Twins did have some success drafting pitchers which bore fruit in the likes of Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, Matt Garza, Jesse Crain and Kevin Slowey - all of whom had at least a good season or two with the Major League club. Perkins is currently the best reliever in the Twins bullpen and Matt Garza has had some very good numbers for the Cubs over the last two seasons and tossed a no-hitter in 2010 with the Rays. They've shown the ability to identify good talent, at least at some point in the past, but that ability appears to have waned...or flat out disappeared.

    I'd love to hear what you readers think - also, let me know if I left anyone out of the first list above.
    This article was originally published in blog: A History Lesson: Twins Pitching - Draft Edition started by Adam Krueger
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      To be fair, if not for injury, Kyle Gibson would be up right now, but you're not wrong. It actually looks to me like there was an "Organizational change in philosophy" that started in 2007 which looked to drafting college pitchers... To be also fair, it was injuries that cost Gutierrez, Gibson, Bashore and now Wimmers... It's hard to say they were bad picks because we don't know. And, no one could have predicted the level of struggle that Shooter Hunt had, even though he was a little more wild his junior year at Tulane. And certainly no one could have predicted it from Alex Wimmers last year. I agree with your general premise in this blog, but it's hard for me to argue with the selections. I mean, it's like this year, fans want a college pitcher. The Twins have definitely taken college pitchers early the last few years. And, finally, there's no reason to completely give up on Gibson, Wimmers and even Gutierrez yet. All three could still have long, productive careers with the Twins!
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      This article proves just hoe terrible the scouting department is. The Polads need to fire Ryan and his wahed up scouts before they screw up another draft. Take the savings and throw the money at front office folks from the Rays or Jays. Without forward thinking guys in the font office this team will NEVER compete again.
    1. sorney's Avatar
      sorney -
      I won't pretend to know how to identify, evaluate, and project amateur talent, but man, they sure have a bad track record. Makes me want to go all Dan Osterbrock on the twitter machine.
    1. Adam Krueger's Avatar
      Adam Krueger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      To be fair, if not for injury, Kyle Gibson would be up right now, but you're not wrong. It actually looks to me like there was an "Organizational change in philosophy" that started in 2007 which looked to drafting college pitchers... To be also fair, it was injuries that cost Gutierrez, Gibson, Bashore and now Wimmers... It's hard to say they were bad picks because we don't know. And, no one could have predicted the level of struggle that Shooter Hunt had, even though he was a little more wild his junior year at Tulane. And certainly no one could have predicted it from Alex Wimmers last year. I agree with your general premise in this blog, but it's hard for me to argue with the selections. I mean, it's like this year, fans want a college pitcher. The Twins have definitely taken college pitchers early the last few years. And, finally, there's no reason to completely give up on Gibson, Wimmers and even Gutierrez yet. All three could still have long, productive careers with the Twins!
      Quite true Seth and thank you for commenting on this one - I figured of all the people in the Twins blogosphere, you would have the most insight since you follow the minor leagues so closely. I agree with you that Gibson, Wimmers and Gutierrez could still go on to contribute at the Major League level and I think I gave a short caveat in my comments that it's a little too soon to tell on draft picks made in the last couple of years. In addition to that, I suspect the Twins will do a better job this year and next year due to the simple fact that they are going to have higher picks in the draft. That said, plenty of good teams have build solid farm systems without having to endure a string of losing seasons. I guess my overall point with the piece was to suggest that perhaps the scouting dept. bears more responsibility for the lack of Minor League pitching talent than does the philosophy of this organization.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      In addition to that, I suspect the Twins will do a better job this year and next year due to the simple fact that they are going to have higher picks in the draft. That said, plenty of good teams have build solid farm systems without having to endure a string of losing seasons
      I don't know how many teams have built solid farm systems without a string of losing seasons, but it is probably fewer than you suggest. Most of the top rated systems right now and in the recent past are teams that did get a string of high draft choices because of losing records. The Twins "dismal" record of drafting pitchers in high rounds seems pretty close to major league averages.

      The fail rate for highly drafted pitchers is pretty high. There are so few truly dominant pitchers, especially dominant pitchers who remain dominant for more than a year or two. If you manage to draft or acquire several young dominant pitchers like Tampa Bay, San Francisco or Washington did, you have had a certain amont of good fortune.


      Even franchises like Kansas City and Pittsburg who picked high in the draft year after don't usually end up with more than one dominant pitcher at any one time on their staff.

      I am not making excuses for the Twins. This year the Twins will almost certainly take at least 3 college pitchers in their first 6 picks. These will all be highly scouted picks, and most "experts" will likely congratulate the Twins on a good job. It probably will be a good job too, if those picks just stay healthy.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Good article and comments. I dont follow the minors as closely as some of you...but I have noticed that Twins picks havent clicked (as the Hawk says) since 2005 or so. That seems to go along with your article. Its not just pitchers--also position players. Is it the switch to Deron Johnson in 2007 you mentioned??
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      I'll give my spin for the data.
      1) The Twins extended a successful organizational run for years based on high pick, college pitchers that moved up the ladder fairly rapidly. However...
      2) In 2006 and 2007 the didn't put any high picks towards pitchers. Then,
      3) in 2008 the two they got were busts and
      4) 2009 and 2010 have been creamed by injuries to some fairly impactful arms.

      Add that up and you get a short cycle in the minor league which hasn't been fed for five years, leaving it nearly destitute. That drought was seemingly self-inflicted early (anyone remember why the Twins went away from college pitcher in those drafts?) followed by a combination of bad luck and busts. The way to get through that is to get some arms from lower rounds or trades. The former has NEVER been a strength and the latter only worked through he early part of the decade.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Quote Originally Posted by Adam Krueger View Post
      That said, plenty of good teams have build solid farm systems without having to endure a string of losing seasons.
      Name some of these teams.

      I'm not sure this tells us all that much. The Twins have used homegrown talent throughout this decade (Liriano should be included in your list) and found many good pieces later in the draft - Neshek, Duesning, Blackburn. And not all drafts were created equal. Look at the 07 draft - we had the 28th overall pick and then the 92nd (lots of supplemental picks there). It was a weak draft overall - Revere right now has the 16th highest WAR of any of the 64 first round picks. And we also have to remember that the Pohlads put spending limits on these drafts as well. The FO might have wanted to sign someone but needed to draft Revere, who signed for under slot.

      I'm not quite ready to go ballistic on the Twins recent drafts. I'm still a big believer in Hicks and the Gibson pick was the right one, even with the injury risk. Last years draft was a nice haul. We've managed to grab a few underrated players later, including Rosario and Dozier in later rounds and have turned a few of our recent second round picks into ML players in trades for Cabrera and Diamond. I didn't like the Wimmers pick but smarter people than I did thought it was fine. This draft we have 5 picks in the first 75 (or so). In 07 we had 2 in the first 92, in 10 we had 2 in the first 71. Those drafts really don't tell us that much about how this draft will work.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      The scouting for pitching has seemed to be very poor of late. There is a reason everyone knew Wimmers was going to the Twins at pick 21 in 2010 despite every scout saying he was the most MLB pitcher in the draft. The other clubs new he didn't have the stuff to be and ace which is what everyone else targets in the 1st round, yet all the scouts knew the Twins cared about control, not dominance and put the selection to down in ink weeks before the draft even started.

      Not to take away from the criticism of the scouting for pitchers, but overall the last 6 years have been poor for offense too. Two nights ago Dozier joined Revere as the only players drafted by the Twins since 2007 to make it to the majors. The system is flawed on so many fronts.
    1. Mr. Ed's Avatar
      Mr. Ed -
      Check this out on the Twins from Neyer. Sounds like Osterbrock was another mis-diagnosed pitcher.

      http://mlb.sbnation.com/2012/5/8/300...baker-injuries
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      Add that up and you get a short cycle in the minor league which hasn't been fed for five years, leaving it nearly destitute. That drought was seemingly self-inflicted early (anyone remember why the Twins went away from college pitcher in those drafts?) followed by a combination of bad luck and busts. The way to get through that is to get some arms from lower rounds or trades. The former has NEVER been a strength and the latter only worked through he early part of the decade.
      2006 - They picked high school bats with their first two picks. Chris Parmelee in the first round and Joe Benson in the second round. Until a couple of weeks ago, I think most Twins fans were pretty excited about them. In the third round, they took a high school pitcher from California named Tyler Robertson who is pitching in AAA right now.
      2007 - They went with Ben Revere, who skyrocketed through the system and was in the big leagues in 2010.

      They had really good luck with college pitchers in 2002-2004 in Crain, Baker and Perkins, although Fox was hurt right away and took a long road to recovery. I think he's in Tacoma right now (Mariner's AAA). But they also had college pitchers in Adam Johnson and Ryan Millws in previous years and those didn't pan out.

      Have high school pitchers had better success? JD Durbin dind't pan out. Neither did Scott Tyler Jay Rainville had to retire with his arm issues. Kyle Waldrop is just getting to the big leagues thanks to a 2007 surgery. Swarzak has been solid.

      The hope is in guys like Bromberg who was a JC guy in 2005 and signed in 2006. BJ Hermsen was a 6th rounder. Adrian Salcedo is a an international signing, as are guys like Stuifbergen and Soliman, etc.

      The other hope, as I said earlier is that Gutierrez, Gibson and Wimmers can be healthy.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Only analyzing the Twins this thoroughly leaves out so much, though. Without comparing their success rate to that of other teams is risky business if a conclusion is to be reached. If it is true that the Twins have done worse than others (and even if they've done average or well), the next step would be to figure out why (were they bad because of bad luck with injuries or were there flags that should have or even could have been seen with the information available AT THE TIME decisions were made). Then the final step would be figuring out how to learn from or keep from repeating any mistakes and building on strengths. While this is a pretty interesting analysis, without that second step of having a relative baseline, it's hard to take those subsequent steps.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I think that acquiring a truly impactfull starting pitcher is a lot more dependent on luck than most would like to believe. Most impactfull starters are acquired in the first round of the draft. But over a ten period (say 2001-2010) something like 150 pitchers are drafted during the first rounds of those drafts. While a good per cent will eventualy appear in the majors, how many have much of an impact?

      I know people have done studies on this, but I would be surprised if you could find even 10%(15 over a 10 year period) who were very impactful and you may have to include one year wonders or guys like Mark Redman or Rick Helling, useful big leaguers but never really stars.

      To get a true ace, you have to be a little lucky. Just like the Twins were with Santana. They had to have a high Rule 5 pick, the Astros had to make him available, the Twins had to be willing to keep him on the major league roster even though he didn't contribute much, they had to eventually send him to AAA were he happened to learn a change up that was a big part of his success.

      There are probably a half a dozen left handers in the Twins system right now, not much different than Santana was when the Twins took him in the Rule 5 draft. About the only thing you can be sure of, is there isn't much chance that any of them will end up even half as good as Santana.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Lohse is about as homegrown as Liriano. He came to the Twins as a minor leaguer from the Cubs in the last Aguilera trade.

      As far as the "what the problem is?" (i.e. good drafting or good development) question, it is a chicken or an egg. Because you don't have a talent pipeline you don't assume it is drafting fault or development fault. Could be one or the other or both. Understood that there is a philosophical issue with the organization drafting and developing pitch to contact pitchers, shying away from wilder power arms and teaching the sinker until there is no tomorrow. IMHO, no matter what you draft, unless you realize that your pitchers are all different and try to play to individual strengths and work on weaknesses you are not going to succeed....
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Understood that there is a philosophical issue with the organization drafting and developing pitch to contact pitchers, shying away from wilder power arms and teaching the sinker until there is no tomorrow. IMHO, no matter what you draft, unless you realize that your pitchers are all different and try to play to individual strengths and work on weaknesses you are not going to succeed....
      EXACTLY. It's like teaching . . . applying universal standards and methods across all students will lead to a disaster.
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