I love following the players in spring training that sign on with the Twins as minor league free agents. These are the guys that used to be big names or a high draft choices, and either got injured or haven’t fulfilled their promise yet. Think guys like J.R. Towles and Sean Burroughs.
But for every Joel Zumaya who comes and goes without getting back to The Show with the Twins, there’s a Jared Burton who breaks camp with the big league club and reinvents himself as a quality contributor. Actually, it’s probably more like one Burton for every five Zumayas.
The Twins have invited 26 non-roster players to spring training at this point, but that number could change in the next week or so if Terry Ryan picks up some scraps between now and the start of camp. Seven of those players signed on as minor league free agents from other organizations, and will be spending their first spring in a Twins uniform.
In theory, at least, these guys will have a chance to compete for a spot on the big-league club. The Twins, however, tend to prefer to promote players from within the organization. These guys will, with a couple of possible exceptions, be facing an uphill battle in Fort Meyers over the coming weeks.
Last week we took a look at Minor Twins Signing Brandon Boggs, and I gave you a heads up in Sunday’s Twins Porn that I’d be taking a look at a couple of guys I think could potentially be this year’s Burton. With pitchers and catchers reporting to Fort Myers one week from today, let’s get a little more familiar with relief pitcher Tim Wood.
Wood has minimal MLB experience to this point, and very little success to show for it, but he’s been an absolutely dominant relief pitcher in the minors. Sound much like Anthony Slama? The right-hander was converted from a starter following the 2006 season, and struck out a batter per inning in that first season as a reliever before watching his K/9 rate drop as he rose through the Marlins system.
He became a closer for Pittsburgh’s AAA affiliate in Indianapolis, and has been named Baseball America’s top relief pitcher in the International League two years running. Something apparently clicked for Wood, as he had a sub-1 WHIP in 2011 and returned to striking out nearly a batter per inning last season.
Relievers tend to be finicky in their performance from year to year, and the Twins may have picked up Wood at the right time: he’s had injuries in the past and has bounced around as far as pitching roles, but he’s put up very respectable numbers in AAA the past two seasons. On the other hand, he might suffer from Slama syndrome and just not have the finite ‘stuff’ to get MLB hitters out. When everything is said and done, I’m confident we’ll see Wood at some point in 2013.
Wood throws a fastball that sits at 94-98 and a hard slider that averages 90 mph. He’s not afraid to mix in a changeup, but he’s thrown it less as he’s had more success.
Did you know?
Wood was drafted out of high school by the Montreal Expos in 2001, but never signed. The players that did sign with the Expos that year have played less than a full MLB season combined since then for the Montreal/Washington franchise.
Chances of making the Twins out of spring training:
The Twins will go into spring training with a fairly crowded bullpen, so Wood’s chances of making the team could largely depend on what happens with the other right-handed relievers in camp. Can Rich Harden stay healthy and show something as a reliever? Are the Twins dead-set on keeping Rule 5 draftee Ryan Pressly? Will Anthony Slama get an extended chance in the majors? According to his agent, there were a number of MLB teams that were interested in Wood, but he thought he had a good chance of breaking camp with the Twins. It’s logic that’s hard to argue with.