The Slama Dilemma


I don’t follow the minor leagues that closely, so I tend to stay out of arguments over who deserves a call-up and who doesn’t (unless it’s Trevor Plouffe, but that’s because it’s hard for me to stalk him while he’s almost 1,000 miles away). I just assume that the organization knows what it’s doing (I mean, it does have a pretty good track record with its homegrown talent), and the players who deserve a look will get one in due time. I don’t think it’s a good idea to rush prospects to the majors before they’re ready (see: Gomez, Carlos), nor do I think it’s in an organization’s best interest to start the service clock any sooner than necessary. Wasting thousands of dollars in arbitration while potentially hurting a player’s development just doesn’t make sense from a business perspective; though I know from a fan’s perspective it can be quite frustrating to watch a player whose talents are clearly being wasted in the minor leagues, especially when that player could fill an immediate need with the major-league club. I know a lot of fans may disagree with me, but I’m not so sure this is the case for Anthony Slama.

Make no mistake: Anthony Slama deserves a look. He’s absolutely dominated at every level in the minor leagues. He’s the proud owner of a 1.85 ERA, 12.9 K/9 rate, and 3.83 K/BB ratio in 213.2 innings from low-A to AAA Rochester. Like Pat Neshek, he’s got a funky delivery that seems to keep hitters off balance (and should be a lot of fun to watch). He’s also 26 years old and, having spent 3 seasons in the minors, is about as major-league ready as he’s going to get. After watching Ron Mahay implode for the third time in three straight appearances, it’s hard to disagree with those chomping at the bit for the Twins to dump some of their dead weight and give Slama a shot.

However, it’s also hard to argue with the organization’s conservative approach to moving the right-hander through the system. I fear that Slama, much like Danny Valencia, is becoming over-hyped amongst over-anxious fans. Sure, his strikeout rate is impressive, but his walk rate is also pretty high for a dominant minor-league reliever. His BB/9 rate stands at 3.9 in Rochester, which is down from the 4.4 it was in AA New Britain, but it’s still awfully high. His strikeout rate has also predictably declined after making the jump to AAA (10.8 K/9 from 12.4 in AA), though his overall 1.80 ERA and 2.77 K/BB ratio are still pretty good. And while he’s got a funky delivery, he’s also got pretty average stuff: a fastball that tops out at about 92 mph, and a good slider with some late break but lacking the sharp bite of, say, Joe Nathan’s slider. It’s tough to predict exactly what a pitcher will do when he reaches the major leagues, but it’s safe to say Slama won’t be nearly as dominant against the American League.

Having said all that, Slama will probably make a very useful reliever in the Twins’ bullpen. The problem is that is already full of useful relievers and Slama isn’t on the 40-man roster. I know this is a controversial point, but Slama doesn’t look to be a big upgrade over anyone else in the bullpen right now. Jesse Crain has actually pitched pretty well despite a few rough outings, and there’s no real reason to think Slama would be any better (plus the Twins would have to eat the $1.3 million left on his contract). Mahay is probably at the top of the list of DFA candidates, but he’s a lefty and Glen Perkins would probably get the call first (Another point of contention, but I do think Perk deserves another shot. He actually pitched well before he got hurt last year, and unlike Slama, can serve as a spot starter if necessary). Alex Burnett, Jose Mijares, and Brian Duensning certainly don’t deserve to be demoted in favor of Slama, either. Pat Neshek will probably be back before long, further burying Slama on the depth chart. And one could even argue that Kyle Waldrop deserves a look before Slama, too. Slama deserves the chance to prove himself in the majors and he will get one, but it probably won’t be until next year.