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 in less than a week, I gave you a rundown on one of those guys a couple of days ago, Tim Wood. Today, let’s get a little more familiar with relief pitcher Bryan Augenstein.
Augenstein is a 6’6” right-hander who had an accomplished amateur career before being called up to the Majors at age 22 and struggling mightily. He was converted to a reliever two years ago, and saw his K/9 rate jump while his WHIP decreased. He last pitched in The Show in 2011, giving up six earned runs in just 5 2/3 innings for St. Louis.
At 26 years old, he’s at a point in his career where many converted relievers start to take off but, then again, many more simply fail in their quest for MLB success. He last pitched in the Tampa organization, a club known for buying low and selling high on pitchers, but they let him walk as a minor league free agent, so take that as you will.
He reportedly throws an exceptional sinker with impressive accuracy, and holds a career 3.79 K/BB ratio in the minors.
Did you know?
Augenstein struck out 23 Cincinnati Bearcats in 2006 pitching for the University of Florida, and hit 1.000 in 2011 for the Cardinals…one at bat, one hit.
Chances of making the Twins out of spring training:
It’s tough to project converted relievers, because their numbers often jump dramatically after a year or two of learning a new role, but Augenstein’s peripherals certainly don’t suggest greatness. Still, he could very well end up being a camp surprise and, as stated above, he’s at a make-or break point in his career. The chances of him heading north out of the gate are slim, but I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Gardy started talking up ‘Augie’ as the spring progresses.