Not B.J. Hermsen, but not all that far off either. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Twin of the Future - B.J. Hermsen


I chronicled the best prospects in the Twins’s system recently.  I focus mostly on upside, because I want to believe in prospects.  I want to believe that they will all reach their ceilings and that every player on the Twins will become an all-star.  When focusing on upside, there are prospects that fall between the cracks.  These players have low ceilings, but high floors.  These players are very likely to contribute to an MLB team, but likely will never become all-stars.  B.J. Hermsen is one of those players and he is going to play for the Twins in the very near future.

B.J. Hermsen was drafted in the 6th round of the 2008 draft out of West Delaware High School in Manchester, Iowa.  Hermsen is a large man, at 6’5″ and 235 lb.  He doesn’t have stereotypical large man stuff, especially in the velocity department.  His fastball sits in the low 90s and the rest of his arsenal is not overpowering.  He relies heavily on his control and his ability to change speeds.  This reliance on control has worked in his favor, as he has managed a miniscule 1.7 BB/9 during his minor league career.  His stuff does not lead to many strikeouts though, as he has only posted a 5.9 K/9 in his career.  His K/BB is a robust 3.5 as a result, although his K/9 has dipped significantly as he has moved up levels.

This lack of dominating stuff is what really stifles his upside.  Since his K/9 drop basically correlates with his rise through the farm system ranks, one can reasonably predict that he will not gain strikeouts when he gets to Minnesota.  However, his walk rates have remained fairly consistent and he is very likely to repeat that important skill regardless of where he pitches.  You know who this sounds like?  Nick Blackburn.  Seriously, take a look at this chart:

NB Innings BH Innings NB K/9 BH K/9 NB BB/9 BH BB/9 NB K/BB BH K/BB
RK 66.2 91.1 8.4 8 2.8 0.8 2.95 10.13
A 160.1 196.2 6 5.9 2.3 1.7 2.59 3.5
A+ 131 49.2 5.2 5.8 1.6 2 3.3 2.91
AA 219.1 139.2 5.2 4.8 2.2 1.6 2.33 3

It’s not a perfect match, but there are certainly some similarities.  Blackburn’s walk rate wasn’t typically as good, and Hermsen has spent less time at each level.  The drop in strikeout rate, coupled with good walk rates makes for a pretty decent comparison.  Anyone who knows me is very aware that I am not a Blackburn fan.  He was serviceable when he debuted, but only because he was super cheap and could give the Twins innings at the back of the rotation.  That Nick Blackburn was tolerable.  The second the Twins signed him to that extension, he became Nick Blackburn, albatross.  This isn’t meant to be a critique of Blackburn, but hopefully the Twins learn from that mistake with Hermsen.

B.J. Hermsen’s early career could mirror Nick Blackburn’s early career.  He will rely heavily on his good control and quality sinker.  Hopefully, Hermsen can give the Twins a better ground ball rate than Blackburn’s career 47.7% figure.  Oddly enough, Blackburn has improved his ground ball rate as his overall performance has deteriorated.  This points toward an overall collapse of his pitching performance, and hopefully a collapse that Hermsen will not mirror.  Minor league ground ball rates are misleading, so projecting Hermsen from those numbers wouldn’t be useful, but a sinker ball pitcher with good control can have great success if they keep the batted balls on the ground.

When will he be ready to pitch for the Twins?  First off, Hermsen is strictly a back of the rotation starter.  A cheap player in that role has value.  For now, it seems he might need another season, perhaps at AAA.  He’d face a fair share of former MLB players and big-league ready hitters while in Rochester.  Hermsen is certainly more ready than Alex Meyer and Trevor May, but likely behind guys like Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson, and even Cole De Vries, Sam Deduno and P.J. Walters at this point.  However, if any of those players leave the organization or struggle, Hermsen could get the call in 2013.

Hermsen isn’t as exciting as the Twins’ other pitching prospects, but he almost certainly has an MLB future.  His command and control will play.  He’ll be able to give the team innings when needed.  I look for Hermsen to eventually man the Anthony Swarzak long relief/spot starter role.  He might even play that role better and exceed all expectations.  B.J. Hermsen’s name is worth remembering, and it might not be long before we all get to see what he brings.

What do you think the future holds for Hermsen?  Which prospect would you like to read more about in the future?  Let me know in the comments below.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13948569 Benjamin Emerson Noble

    Am I crazy to hope for a poor-man’s Brad Radke? Hermsen’s K/9 rates have dropped but, like you alluded to, he’s been pushed through the minors fairly aggressively for a Twins prospect, and he seems to get the job done wherever he pitches. I haven’t seen him in person, but I’ve heard he’s a really smart kid who started ‘pitching’ rather than ‘throwing’ earlier than most prospects. I think AAA will be an important test for him, but those low BB/9 and HR/9 numbers really stick out, and I’d like to assume that he can continue to develop that control and use his head to maximize his mediocre velocity. What do you think, am I totally off base?

    • Brad Swanson

      I don’t think you are. His first MLB season will be really telling. If he can post a decent K rate and get ground balls, he can have success. He might get a shot sooner than later with the Twins already dealing with injuries somehow.