Thursday, December 22, 2005
"Roger" on the Twins Starting Pitchers
Just a real quick update as I was out of town most of Wednesday. I listened to XM Radio's Home Plate network during most of the driving. You have to love that whole East Coast bias, don't you? I mean, I do realize that there were not a lot of other big baseball stories, but there was more than just the Johnny Damon to the Yankees story. I mean, Steve Finley went from the Angels to the Giants in exchange for Edgardo Alfonso! And hey... OK, there wasn't much more to talk about. However, from how many angles can this story be looked at? Many believe that the Yankees got a great deal because they picked up the centerfielder and the leadoff hitter that they needed in one move. They also were able to make their biggest competitor worse. They were also able to sign Damon on their terms, not going far outside of his market value. The Yankees lineup is even a little better than they have been, but the fact is that hitting was never their problem. So, does adding another bat really help them much? Not really, if they don't get better pitching in 2006! From the Red Sox angle, many believe that the sky is falling down. Some blame Damon for being greedy. Others blame Larry Lucchino for not stepping up when their "leader" was so close. But the Red Sox are a mess right now! They have lost Mueller, Damon, Millar, Renterria, David Wells wants out, Manny wants out. It will be a huge challenge for the messed up Sox front office contingency to try to put together. I think that many deals will be made. But who will be their CF in 2006? Jeremy Reed? Dave Roberts? Coco Crisp? Joey Gathright? Torii Hunter? And what will they have to give up to get that player. Personally, I think that Reed is their best option. In reality, you would not be losing terribly much with him. First, Reed is actually good on defense and has an arm. Damon is vastly overrated defensively and makes Bernie Williams look like he's got a rocket! Reed has hit in his brief minor league career and puts together great leadoff at bats. He also is young and comes at a very cheap price tag. Now, how do they get him? And what about their pitching? I have to admit that I enjoyed listening to all of the banter from all of the angles... for the first three or four hours. But eight hours later, even I was flipping channels!!
Oh, congratulations also to Darren Sharper and Koren Robinson for making the NFL's Pro Bowl. Congrats also to the Minnesota Timberwolves for ending their four-game losing streak with an 88-69 win over the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets last night! Kevin Garnett had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists. Speaking of... did everyone hear about Kobe Bryant's ZERO assist game on Tuesday night? Probably not, since he scored 62 points... and didn't even play in the 4th quarter. When he left the game after three quarters, he had 62 points and the whole Dallas Mavericks team had 61. OK, I did listen to some ESPN radio's Dan Patrick discuss that. It was a no-win situation for Bryant. By taking himself out of the game, he is criticized for not going after the scoring record (ok, 2nd place all-time behind Wilt's 100!). If he stays in the game, people will just say that he is being selfish. Fact is, Kobe is selfish, and people know it already, so he probably should have played. That is a problem that Wolves fans can hardly fathom since their best player is arguably the most unselfish superstar in the game!
OK, I must sleep! Have yourself a great Thursday! We've got another excellent review of the Twins minor league system by Roger, so let's get right to it!
ROGER'S MINOR LEAGUE REVIEW - Starting Pitchers
In previous weeks, "Roger" has done his positional review of the Twins system. He has reviewed the 2005 seasons of the catchers, the first basemen, the third basemen , the middle infielders and the outfielders last week. This week, we will review the 2005 seasons of the Twins minor league starting pitchers. Obviously this is the area in which the Twins system are best known. They are absolutely loaded with legitimate, high-level prospects. Look at the potential starting rotations for each of the Twins affiliates. Each has four or five really strong prospects. Many of them distinguished themselves in 2005. Today, we will discuss and recognize them. So, lets see what "Roger" has to say about all of the Twins minor league starting pitchers. If you have any thoughts for me or Roger, e-mail me, or leave some comments below. Have a great day!
Twins Minor League System Review
The Starting Pitchers
Today we will take a look at the Twins strongest position, starting pitching. A reminder about the ranking I show for each player. It is based on their performance in 2005 and if they missed part of the season, their ranking will be lower as a result. I have highlighted all rankings that were lowered because of injury or another reason (#46). Players included on the Twins 40-man roster will have their names in Bold Green.
Rochester Red Wings (AAA)
Any discussion of starting pitching at Rochester begins with Francisco Liriano and Timothy Baker (Scott to most of us). Baker (#3/D2, 2003), who at 23 was the second consecutive college pitcher (Jesse Crain/D2, 2002) taken by the Twins in the second round to make it to the major leagues within two years of being drafted. Baker performed well (134.2ip/5W-8L/3.01era/.242OppAve/107K/26BB) at Rochester, with a 1.106WHIP. Liriano (#1/Trade, 2004), who at the age of 21 had the most strikeouts (204) of any pitcher in minor league baseball, was ranked by several organizations as the top pitching prospect in baseball. He began 2005 at New Britain (76.2ip/3W-5L/3.64era/.242OppAve/92K/26BB), then put up spectacular numbers at Rochester (91.0ip/9W-2L/1.78era/.177OppAve/112K/24BB) with a lights out 0.879WHIP and 1.231K/ip. We all got our first look at both players when they performed well in limited action with the Twins during the later part of last year. It is likely both will become fixtures in the Twins rotation at some time in 2006.
Baker and Liriano weren’t the only starters at Rochester who are legitimate prospects who could provide help for the Twins in 2006, if needed. Boof Bonser (#16/Trade, 2004), was acquired with Liriano and Nathan in the Pierzynski trade. Bonser led the International League with 168 strikeouts (1.048K/ip). He has struggled with control in the past, however, at 23 years of age was in AAA and likely improved his prospect status (160.1ip/11W-9L/3.99era/.251OppAve/168K/57BB) with a respectable 3.20BB/9ip. Former top prospect, J.D. Durbin (#33/D2, 2000), was also 23. Although there are now questions after his performance in 2005 (104ip/5W-5L/4.33era/.251OppAve/90K/51BB), the “Real Deal” remains a pitcher who could turn it around and be solid for either the Twins or another major league team. Another Rochester starter who had two starts with the Twins in 2005 is Dave Gassner (#43/Kielty Trade, 2003). Gassner pitched an excellent game at Cleveland getting the win in his first appearance, then lasted less than 2 innings in his second start against Kansas City. Gassner is a finesse pitcher who was injured last year (116.1ip/8W-8L/4.95era/.302OppAve/64K/33BB) and didn’t pitch as well as 2004 when he led Rochester with a 16-8 record and 3.41era in 174.1ip.
Other starters for Rochester during the season included veteran minor leaguer Jimmy Anderson (62ip/4W-4L/2.90era/.258OppAve/41K/32BB) who was released during the season. Henry Bonilla (#54/D8, 2000) split the year between the bullpen (19 games) and starting rotation (16 starts). Bonilla, who turned 27, did a respectable job (118ip/6W-7L/5.11era/.299OppAve/63K/44BB). There were several relievers who started a few games for the Red Wings and all other teams…these players will be reviewed with the relievers next week.
New Britain Rock Cats (AA)
As we watched Francisco Liriano pitch for the Twins last September, most of us forgot that he was the Rock Cats opening day starter. From AA to four September starts for the Twins, what a year for a special 21 year old! Levale Speigner (#30/D14, 2003), 24, had more starts (23) than any other pitcher on the staff. He was solid throughout the year (143.2ip/6W-10L/4.13era/.268OppAve/94K/28BB), however, pitched a few of his best games late in the season when the Rock Cats were fighting for a playoff spot. Colby Miller (#37/D3, 2000), 23, is one of the Twins most intriguing prospects when he is healthy. Unfortunately, he spent some time in 2004 and much of 2005 on the DL. Before he was injured, Miller had a 0.84era in his first 5 starts (32ip), finishing with (70ip/2W-7L/3.60era/.265OppAve/41K/19BB) before going on the disabled list for the remainder of the season. Jim Abbott (#52/ndfa, 1999), 25, had a solid year, splitting time between the starting rotation and bullpen. He started 12 games for the Rock Cats (96.2ip/7W-3L/5.31era/.277OppAve/71K/26BB). Another pitcher who split time between the bullpen and rotation was Justin Olson (#44/mlfa, 2003), 23, who reportedly has one of the best arms on the team. Olson started 15 games (109ip/9W-8L/4.79era/.232OppAve/103K/49BB), striking out nearly 1 batter per inning. Matt Yeatman (#39/Kinney Trade, 2002), 23, also split time between the bullpen and rotation. He was a solid member of the staff (103.2ip/5W-7L/4.08era/.256OppAve/74K/39BB), starting 16 games early in the season.
After Liriano moved up to Rochester, three pitchers joined the Rock Cats from Ft. Myers following the Florida State League all-star game. The trio were the top prospects on the staff during the second half when the Rock Cats moved up from the cellar just missing a spot in the playoffs. The best known of the three is 22 year old Stillwater, Minnesota native and ex-Gopher Glen Perkins (#13/D1b, 2004). Perkins, who began the season a few weeks late following a nagging injury in spring training, was excellent at Ft. Myers in 9 starts (55ip/3W-2L/2.13era/.205OppAve/66K/13BB) including 2 complete games and 1 shutout. He struggled (79ip/4W-4L/4.90era/.263OppAve/67K/35BB) following his promotion to New Britain. Previously he had excellent control (2.25BB/9ip at Quad Cities in 2004 and 2.12BB/9ip at Ft. Myers), however, his walks increased (3.98BB/9ip) at New Britain. It has been reported that AA hitters were more disciplined and weren’t swinging at pitches out of the zone and it took some time for him to adjust. His best starts were toward the end of the season when his Manager, Stan Cliburn, was quoted as saying “Perkins can be as good as he wants to be.” Perkins was assigned to the AFL where some called him the best pitcher in the league (32ip/2.53era/39K/6BB). The most important stat was that he walked only 6 hitters in 32 innings (1.688BB/9ip) against many of the top AA and AAA hitting prospects in baseball.
When Scott Baker was promoted to the Twins, Rochester needed to bring up a New Britain pitcher for a few starts. Their choice, who also began the season at Ft. Myers, was 23 year old Nick Blackburn (#6/D29, 2001). His numbers (93.2ip/7W-5L/3.36era/.265OppAve/55K/16BB) were excellent at Ft. Myers where he was selected to the mid-year all-star team. He did reasonably well in 3 starts for Rochester with no record (14ip/5.14era/.328OppAve/7K/3BB). At New Britain, Blackburn had the best numbers of the trio (49ip/2W-4L/1.84era/.206OppAve/27K/10BB). The third member of the trio was 22 year old lefty Errol Simonitsch (#14/D6, 2003). Simonitsch also had excellent numbers at Ft. Myers (80.1ip/8W-3L/2.69era/.236OppAve/72K/12BB). After he was promoted to New Britain, Simonitsch pitched reasonably well (78.2ip/6W-5L/4.12era/.288OppAve/52K/28BB), however, like Perkins his walks increased. Simonitsch was added to the Twins 40-man roster following the season, Perkins does not need to be added until next year.
Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi A)
Nick Blackburn, Glen Perkins and Errol Simonitsch began the season as the top three on the Miracle rotation and all were promoted to New Britain at the midway point of the season. Adam Harben (#7/D15, 2002), 21, who was ranked by Baseball America as the Florida State League’s 16th best prospect was the one starter in the rotation for the entire season. Harben was one of the better pitchers in the league (135.1ip/10W-5L/2.66era/.207OppAve/119K/62BB) with his only flaw a few walks to many (4.123BB/9ip). The Twins think highly of Harben and recently added him to their 40-man roster. Scott Tyler (#41/D2, 2001), 22, had been added to the 40-man roster following the 2004 season. A highly ranked player in the 2001 draft, Tyler never reached his potential on the field. He did well in 2005 (118.1ip/7W-8L/3.95era/.245OppAve/109K/48BB), however, allowed 18 home runs (1.369HR/9ip) and likely was the 8th best starter on the Ft. Myers staff. Following the end of the season, Tyler was part of the trade to Florida for Luis Castillo. Justin Jones (#27/MientkiewiczTrade, 2004) began the season in extended spring training as the Twins were concerned with the health of the 20 year old’s highly valued left arm. When three pitchers were promoted to New Britain, Jones joined Ft. Myers and was inserted into their starting rotation. After the first few games, Jones pitched very well and was arguably their best starter (77.2ip/7W-3L/3.01era/.268OppAve/54K/28BB) during the last two months of the season when he pitched 2 complete games. Jones was also added to the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft.
In the 2004 draft the Twins drafted three 18 year pitchers in the first and second rounds. They began the season with Beloit and two were promoted to Ft. Myers as mid-season replacements for the trio promoted to AA. Anthony Swarzak (#9/D2, 2004), 19, had an exceptional first half of the season at Beloit (91.1ip/9W-5L/4.04era/.238OppAve/101K/32BB), including an excellent 1.106K/ip. He continued pitching well after his promotion (59ip/3W-4L/3.66era/.300OppAve/55K/11BB), including a 0.932K/ip with excellent control (1.678BB/9ip). The second of the three “young guns” from the 2004 draft is Jay Rainville (#11/D1s, 2004), 19, who was a first round sandwich pick. Rainville began the season a little behind Swarzak, however, rapidly stepped up his performances earning one of the two promotions (88.1ip/8W-2L/3.77era/.243OppAve/77K/27BB). He continued to pitch like a future ace at Ft. Myers (54ip/4W-3L/2.67era/.256OppAve/35K/6BB). Swarzak strikes out more batters, however, Rainville allowed a Silva like 1.000BB/9ip with a 1.111WHIP.
Beloit Snappers (Low A)
Swarzak and Rainville were the Snapper’s top pitchers during the first half of the season and were selected by Baseball America as the Midwest League’s 8th and 11th best prospects, respectively. The third “young gun” from the 2004 draft, 19 year old Kyle Waldrop(#28/D1c, 2004) pitched nearly 50 innings more than any other Snapper pitcher. Waldrop, who had remarkable control at Elizabethton in 2004 (3BB/25ip), pitched well (151.2ip/6W-11L/4.98era/.291OppAve/108K/23BB) with a sterling 1.365BB/9ip. Dutch native, 19 year old Alexander Smit (#21/ndfa, 2002) began the season as a starter for the Snappers. Although his dominating fastball accounts for a lot of strikeouts, he was unable to pitch as expected in Beloit (49.2ip/1W-9L/5.98era/.283OppAve/54K/28BB) and was sent back to Elizabethton after their season began. Smit’s outstanding performance as a reliever at Elizabethton will be discussed in detail next week. Kyle Aselton (#25/D11, 2004) spent much of the season in the bullpen, however, started 10 games late in the season when the 22 year old lefty was one of the team’s top starters (112ip/6W-2L/2.49era/.199OppAve/113K/61BB) with about 1 strikeout per inning, however, a lot of walks. Eduardo Morlan (#24, D3, 2004) began the season in extended spring training, then had a brief stint with Elizabethton (22ip/2W-0L/0.82era/.085OppAve/30K/6BB) when he was flat out unhittable. He reportedly has one of the better arms in the system and did very well as another 19 year old pitching for Beloit (51.1ip/4W-4L/4.38era/.207OppAve/55K/31BB) including 1.071K/ip.
Two older players worked much of the year out of the bullpen, however, had 10 starts each. Josh Hill (#46/ndfa, 2001), 22, pitched well (105.2ip/4W-7L/3.66era/.228OppAve/82K/46BB). David Shinskie (#68/D4, 2003), was injured during part of the season, however, was recently discussed as being a possible Rule 5 pick due to his excellent talent (77.1ip/2W-8L/7.22era/.333OppAve/51K/24BB).
The final two starters were members of the Twins 2005 draft class who pitched at Beloit during the last half of the season. Kevin Slowey (#2/D2b, 2005), 21, began his career at Elizabethton where he appeared in 4 games (7.2ip/0W-0L/1.17era/.080OppAve/15K/0BB). After his brief stay in the Appalachian League, he was promoted to Beloit where he was one of the top pitchers in the league. He dominated the Midwest League (64.1ip/3W-2L/2.24era/.183OppAve/69K/8BB), including a 1 hit complete game shutout with the hit a bloop single with 2 outs in the 9th inning. Slowey’s numbers were so remarkable, that even after a substantial discount for playing Low-A ball, his 108.611 points was the 2nd best performance of all pitchers in the system as determined by the formula I use to rate minor league players. Some of the statistics that show us what type of year he had include a 1.119BB/9ip, 8.625K/1BB, 1.073K/ip, and a 0.777WHIP. Slowey was 14-2 last spring for Winthrop University, where he holds the all-time record for most wins. Will Kevin follow in the footsteps of two college pitchers drafted recently in the second round (Jesse Crain and Scott Baker) who both made it to the Twins within two years of being drafted?
The top pick in last year’s draft was Matt Garza (#22/D1, 2005), 21, who also began his season in Elizabethton (19.2ip/1W-1L/3.66era/.200OppAve/25K/6BB). The Fresno State alum, who moved up to Beloit shortly after Slowey, also did well (56ip/3W-3L/3.54era/.251OppAve/64K/15BB) in his first season of professional ball. Garza was selected by Baseball America as the 10th best prospect in the Midwest League.
Elizabethton Twins (Rookie)
Two pitchers from the 2005 draft were solid starters for the championship Elizabethton Twins. Ryan Mullins (#10/D3b, 2005), 21, is a tall lefty who was drafted out of Vanderbilt University in nearby Nashville. Mullins put up outstanding numbers (53.2ip/3W-0L/2.18era/.182OppAve/60K/13BB), then finished off the season by striking out 13 Danville Braves in 5 innings of the opening game of the playoffs. He was selected by Baseball America as the 19th best prospect in the Appalachian League. Another lefty, 22 year old Brian Duensing (#23/D3, 2005) reported late as he was a member of the University of Nebraska team playing in the College World Series. Duensing’s performance was also excellent (50.1ip/4W-3L/2.32era/.249OppAve/55K/16BB).
Two products of Venezuela were also prominent in the Twins rotation. Yohan Pino (#31) led the team in most starts (12), wins (9) and innings pitched (67.2). Pino, 21, put up very strong numbers during his first year in the system (67.2ip/9W-2L/3.72era/.255OppAve/64K/13BB). Oswaldo Sosa (#58) was another starter (56.1ip/6W-5L/4.95era/.265OppAve/40K/21BB) who had pitched well as an 18 year old in the GCL in 2004 (28.2ip/2.20era/30K/4BB).
Adam Hawes (#8/D40, 2003), 22, was a draft and follow from the 2003 draft. Hawes, who led the Appalachian League with the lowest era (1.53), is an older prospect who had a wonderful season for the championship Twins (59ip/4W-0L/1.53era/.183OppAve/68K/16BB). In addition to a league best era, he also had 1.153K/ip and a .915WHIP. When drafted as a first round sandwich pick in 2004, Matt Fox was considered one of the Twins top pitching prospects from that pitching heavy draft. The 22 year old had been overused during his college career and was ineffective in his few appearances for Elizabethton during the 2004 season. Fox was shut down for the entire 2005 season and as of this date, it is unknown what role he will play in the organization in 2006 and beyond.
Gulf Coast Twins (Rookie)
The GCL Twins most frequent starter (11) was Brandon McConnell (#62/D8, 2003), 20, who was effective in his second stint with the GCL team after missing all of 2004. McConnell also led the team in innings pitched (63ip/5W-4L/4.14era/.298OppAve/39K/12BB). Lefty Kyle Edlich (#29/ndfa, 2004), performed very well (47.2ip/4W-2L/1.70era/.243OppAve/53K/15BB) with the top era on the team. This 19 year old Australian has a bright future and should move quickly through the system. Jose Castillo (#55/ndfa, 2003) is a 20 year old Venezuelan (48ip/4W-4L/3.00era/.270OppAve/27K/19BB) who started 9 games for the GCL team. Patrick Bryant (#72/D6, 2004), 19, is another young pitcher who worked in both relief and as a starter with 6 starts (36.1ip/1W-3L/6.44era/.273OppAve/25K/22BB). Lefty Jeff Schoenbachler (#57/D5, 2004) was in his second year with the GCL team and will likely (45.1ip/2W-2L/3.97era/.272OppAve/45K/15BB) move up to Elizabethton in 2006.
The one member of the starting rotation from the 2005 draft was Alex Burnett (#56/D12, 2005), 19, who pitched very well in his first exposure to professional ball. Burnett started 8 games, improving throughout the summer (48.1ip/4W-2L/4.10era/.267OppAve/33K/14BB). Two other highly thought of pitchers from the 2005 draft, Brian Kirwin (D11) and Michael Allen (D13) signed in August and will join the organization in spring taining.
Perhaps the best way to summarize this strong group of starting pitchers is to look at where the top prospects will likely be in 2006. Obviously, some pitchers will perform better or worse in spring training which will effect their roles. In addition, any pitcher moving up or down will effect others slated for that team and should Liriano begin the season at Rochester, a domino effect would begin which could effect players at each level all the way down to Elizabethton.
The first question facing Rochester is whether or not Francisco Liriano will begin the season with the Twins. It is probably 50-50 that he will begin in the Twins rotation, however, his performance in spring training and trades of other players will effect the Twins decision. Assuming Liriano is with the Twins, the Rochester rotation will include Boof Bonser, J.D. Durbin and David Gassner. None of this trio are any longer considered top prospects, however, Bonser has moved to the forefront and could serve as an adequate replacement for an injury. Gassner could get a look in spring training for a bullpen roster spot in a role similar to Mulholland.
The New Britain rotation could be the organization’s top group with each starter a legitimate candidate to be a solid major league starting pitcher at some time in the future. The prospects most likely to get an early promotion to Rochester would be Glen Perkins or Nick Blackburn. Assuming they both begin with the Rock Cats, the New Britain starting rotation will likely be the same as the Miracle’s 2005 opening day rotation (Perkins, Blackburn, Simonitsch and Harben) with Justin Jones likely replacing Scott Tyler. The wild card is what role will Colby Miller play, if healthy.
The Ft. Myers Miracle rotation will be anchored by the two “young guns” who joined the team at midseason last year, Rainville and Swarzak. The balance of the staff will be selected from the many young stars at Beloit last year (Kyle Waldrop, Kevin Slowey, Matt Garza, Eduardo Morlan and Kyle Aselton). Although another step removed from the Twins, this group may be as strong as the group immediately ahead of them.
The Beloit Snappers should again have a very strong staff including one or two of last years starters who will begin a second season at Beloit because there aren’t spots available at Ft. Myers. Leading candidates to move up from Elizabethton include Adam Hawes, Brian Duensing, Ryan Mullins, and Yohan Pino. It is also likely that one or more of the top pitchers selected in the 2006 draft could be added to the Beloit staff, if space is available.
The Elizabethton and Gulf Coast League starting staffs will be a combination of players from the 2006 draft and younger players who were on the GCL Twins last year in addition to Brian Kirwin and Michael Allen, who both signed late last summer and reportedly are very talented 19 year old pitchers.
Another excellent job by Roger, detailing the outfielders in the Twins minor league system. Really, I don't need to summarize anything because he has it covered very well. But, I do like to share my opinions.
My only real addition is just that I think that the Twins system is absolutely loaded with pitching prospects. I mean, really, if you try to project each affiliate's 2006 rotation, you get five guys at each level who have a legitimate shot at a big league career. That has to be unusual among other major league systems, isn't it?
In my opinion, right now Francisco Liriano is likely the only guy that I personally would project as an "Ace." But then again, my definition of an ace is a guy like Johan Santana. A guy who will be dominant in terms of strikeouts and other important numbers, appear in All-Star games and get plenty of Cy Young votes. He is still young and in the low minor leagues, but it also appears that Jose Mijares has the ability to reach this level.
I believe that the Twins are loaded with guys I would classify as #2 starters. Obviously that is not a bad thing. To me, that is a guy that could potentially stick in the league for 12-15 years and throw about 200 innings a year and win 150-200 games if all goes well (and really, when it comes to minor league prospects, it is all about projections... and guesses, right?). I consider Tom Glavine or Mike Mussina great #2 pitchers with Brad Radke also being here. Of course, those are high-end #2 types. Neither had big strikeouts or overly dominant-looking numbers but appeared in All-Star games and have shown longevity. Guys I would place in this category? Well, Scott Baker obviously goes to the top of this list as I think he could be very similar to Mussina. Glen Perkins' Arizona Fall League performance puts him back in this category for me. Jay Rainville and Anthony Swarzak probably will fit into this category, although both seem to have the ability to jump up to #1 status. So does Eduardo Morlan. Adam Harben and Justin Jones also fit in here. Harben does need to continue to refine his control. I know it is early to determine it, but I also think that 2005 draft picks Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey and Ryan Mullins fit into this category.
A #3 guy would be like what Carlos Silva has been so far with the Twins. He has been solid, but so far for just a short period of time. Pitches a lot of innings. Not great, but right about average numbers. Silva may be at the upper end of this classification because of his walk numbers, but he probably doesn't jump into the #2 category because of his complete lack of strikeouts. I would probably put Kyle Waldrop here for now, although a breakout 2006 could move him up this list as well. I would put Kyle Aselton and Nick Blackburn here for now too. Maybe Kyle Edlich and Adam Hawes, although again, it is really too early and we'll learn a lot about them in their full-season debuts next year.
To me, a #4 guy would be like what Kyle Lohse has been the last three or four years. He may be average, or even slightly below average, but he pitches innings, every fifth day. He may be up and down, but the team knows what they can get out of him. There is a larger group here. I think this is where Boof Bonser will end up. Errol Simonitsch could be here. It's hard to rank JD Durbin at this point, but if he regains any form of control, he could fit anywhere on this list, including the #1 class as he is still young. If healthy, Colby Miller would fit here. Potentially, Yohan Pino and Oswaldo Sosa fit in here, as does Brian Duensing. Alex Smit has Ace-like stuff, but until he gains control, he remains a bullpen option.
There are, of course, guys who will be #5 types, guys who, if called up from Rochester could help out and do well. Dave Gassner did that early in 2005. More than likely, their Major League opportunities will be in the bullpen. There you would find guys like Levale Speigner, Jim Abbott, Justin Olson, Matt Yeatman, David Shinskie and Josh Hill.
Of course, within one organization, it would be really difficult to keep all 12 of these guys that I consider #1 or #2 pitchers on the 40 man roster (or all 17 that I consider a 1, 2 or 3). There will have to be trades. Some will get added to the 40 man roster when need be, but other very good pitchers could be lost via the Rule V draft. Of course, we will know a lot more about all of these pitchers next September. Some will continue to progress. Some will lose it. Again, don't forget that a year ago, JD Durbin could have been classified as no worse than a #2, and now we have no idea what his future is, particularly after he was dropped from his Venezuelan team for poor pitching. But then there will be other guys that we don't think real highly of now that could jump up our lists. Willie Eyre's 8-0 work as a starter in Venezuela has to have opened some eyes.
It is a fun group to follow!! I have written numerous times that having pitching depth is probably the most important thing that an organization can have! It will create roster issues, but I would rather have such issues than just add guys for now reason. Look in two years when the team will have to decide which of the following to add to their 40 man roster (Anthony Swarzak, Jay Rainville, Kyle Waldrop, Eduardo Morlan, Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, Ryan Mullins and Brian Duensing). Ouch!
So, overall, I would say, and I think Roger would agree, that the Twins are absolutely loaded with top-level pitching prospects. It is exciting to know that the Twins should remain a competitive team for years to come just because of the whole development of their pitching staff. Do you have any thoughts on the Twins minor league starting pitchers? If so, e-mail me, or post some comments below. Check back next week when Roger will help us learn more about another position in the Twins minor league system.
That's all, folks! I will call it a day. I certainly hope that you have found Roger's article on the Twins outfielders worth reading, and I hope that many of you will have comments for him. I will be back tomorrow for more of my own thoughts on some of your questions, as well as the NFL "Expert" Picks. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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