Over the past few weeks, I have investigated the Twins’ depth at each offensive position. Today, we will conclude with the pitching staff. While much has been written about the Twins starting pitching and bullpen, I hope to organize things nicely, so we can all be ready for some of the names that we might see during the 2013 season. The Twins have varying depth within their pitching staff, and have some uncertainty due to injuries as well. You can count me as a fan of the way the Twins have addressed their pitching this off-season. However, will their moves pay off this season? Let’s investigate.
Front of the Rotation – Little Depth
I am not listing anyone as a true front of the rotation starter. However, there are a few pitchers in the system who have either flashed the requisite stuff or have the requisite potential to pitch at the front of the rotation.
Last season, Scott Diamond was a front end starter in the first half and then he wasn’t in the second half. I looked at Diamond’s season in great detail and I am convinced he can be a solid pitcher, so long as his walk rate stays low, among other things. You can read the full breakdown here.
Vance Worley could be a front end starter as well. He doesn’t really have Ace potential, but he gets strikeouts, limits walks and had an excellent rookie season in 2011. His 127 ERA+ is not only impressive, but extremely encouraging. If he gets back to that level of pitching, the Twins have a solid number 2/3 starter.
I’m very encouraged with reports about Kyle Gibson. He seems to be throwing harder since his TJ surgery. Throwing hard was never what made him a promising starter. His command and control are excellent. If his stuff is better than we all thought, he could be dynamic. I am really looking forward to watching Gibson pitch. Some are saying he has number 2 starter upside. After all the uncertainty surrounding Gibson the past two seasons, his emergence as a top end starter would be the biggest story of 2013.
Finally, Alex Meyer, the pitcher the Twins acquired for Denard Span, has front end stuff. His size (6′ 9″) and stuff could be a lethal combination to American League hitters. He has to refine his command and he’ll need to keep working on his change-up but he likely already has the best stuff in the Twins’ system and he could be ready to contribute by the end of this season. He won’t be a front end starter right away, but he could get there sooner than we think.
Back of the Rotation – Great Depth
*Player is not currently on the 40-man roster
Scott Diamond (MLB) – 26, LHP
Vance Worley (MLB) – 25, RHP
Mike Pelfrey (MLB) – 29, RHP
Kevin Correia (MLB) – 32, RHP
Liam Hendriks (MLB) – 24, RHP
*Rich Harden (MLB) – 31, RHP
Kyle Gibson (AAA) – 25, RHP
Cole De Vries (AAA) – 28, RHP
Anthony Swarzak (AAA) – 27, RHP – Out of options
*Nick Blackburn (AAA) – 31, RHP
*Samuel Deduno (AAA) – 29, RHP
*P.J. Walters (AAA) – 28, RHP
*Trevor May (AA) – 23 – RHP
B.J. Hermsen (AA) – 23, RHP
*Alex Meyer (AA) – 23 – RHP
*Rafael Perez (AAA) – 31, LHP
I ordered this list by how I think the pitchers would be called upon if needed. The Twins actually have good starting pitching depth. There aren’t dominant pitchers on this list, but if a couple injuries hit, there are capable starters available. If major injuries hit, the fans will get an early glimpse of the future.
Looking at specific arms, I don’t expect Deduno, Walters and Harden to all stay with the organization. De Vries, Blackburn and Gibson are locks for Rochester’s rotation, in my opinion. That leaves two spots for potentially three players. This all assumes that Swarzak is in the Twins’ bullpen. He is out of options, so the Twins might do all they can to keep him. I also do not think Rafael Perez will make a successful transition to starting.
I expect the Twins’ starting rotation to consist of Diamond, Worley, Pelfrey, Correia and Hendriks. If Harden stays healthy, he could take Hendriks’ place. My guess is that Cole De Vries gets the first call, if a starter goes down. Nick Blackburn might be next in line after De Vries, but a lot can change as the AAA season plays out.
Finally, I think we will see 2 of the 3 AA pitchers listed at some point in the season. I am guessing Meyer will spend all of 2013 in the minors. I don’t see a lot of reason to rush Meyer. If the 2013 Twins have a need for Alex Meyer, the wheels will have fallen off, rolled down a huge hill, exploded and sent shrapnel all over the universe. He’ll be fine getting more reps in New Britain.
Back of the Bullpen – Average Depth
Glen Perkins (MLB) – 30, LHP
Jared Burton (MLB) – 32 RHP
Brian Duensing (MLB) – 30, LHP
The depth at the back of the bullpen is average, just because there aren’t many options beyond the players in the closer and set-up roles. I am a huge Glen Perkins fan. I think he could be a top 10 closer this season, if he gets enough opportunities. I love his fastball and I love how confident he looks when on the mound. Jared Burton was a great signing last off-season and should provide great value in the set-up role. Brian Duensing has consistently gotten lefties out in his career and is best suited in this role. He might not be dominant like Perkins, but he can be effective. The 8th and 9th inning shouldn’t be a huge issue for the 2013 Twins.
Rest of the Bullpen – Average Depth
Casey Fien (MLB) – 29, RHP
Alex Burnett (MLB) – 25, RHP
Tyler Robertson (MLB) – 25, LHP
Josh Roenicke (AAA) – 30, RHP – Out of options
Anthony Swarzak – (AAA) – 27, RHP – Out of options
Tim Wood (AAA) – 30, RHP – Out of options
*Deolis Guerra (DFA) – 24, RHP – Out of options
Ryan Pressly (BOS) – 24, RHP
*Anthony Slama (Annexed) – 29, RHP
I don’t have a clear picture on who will be used in these final 3-4 bullpen slots. Rich Harden and Rafael Perez are possibilities too. I’d think Casey Fien would be a lock, considering how effective he was last season, but that was also a very small sample. Alex Burnett has been consistently mediocre, but has consistently had a job, so I’d expect him to make the team again. Tyler Robertson was pretty solid against lefties last year and could certainly carve out some value in that role again.
The rest of the names are a total mystery to me. Roenicke, Swarzak, Wood and Guerra are all out of options, but not one of them is so fantastic that the Twins need to keep them at all costs. Ryan Pressly isn’t likely good enough to make the roster either, and would then need to be offered back to Boston. Anthony Slama was annexed to Siberia a few seasons ago, and odds are he will not be brought back.
The Twins probably have more pitching depth than hitting depth. The options aren’t super exciting, but there are a lot of them. I have argued that the rotation is improved compared with last season. I am not sure what that will mean as far as wins go, but the Twins have 4 starters who could potentially give them 200 innings this season. The bullpen is less clear, but the talent level is not bad. I like Perkins, Burton, Duensing, Fien and Robertson. There is a good possibility that the Twins have a good bullpen. What this means for the 2013 season will be decided very soon. I am excited to see how it goes.
Next week, I’m going back to the future, as they say. We’ll investigate what the 2016 team might look like. For now, what do you think of the Twins’ pitching depth. Please respond in the comments below.
Also, I got tired of waiting for Kyle Lohse to sign, so I analyzed it in advance. Enjoy!