10 Pitching prospects the Twins might want

By Editorial Staff

We’re still over a month away from the trade deadline, but it is becoming evident that the Twins will be sellers this season. Fortunately, they have a number of veterans on the roster who might be of interest to a contending team. They also have a major system-wide need for starting pitching. I realize that the Twins’ front office is very busy, so I have decided to be extra helpful and present a list of 10 pitchers who might help.

Several assumptions went into the making of this list:

  • Teams the Mariners may have some talented young hurlers in their organization, but they would be crazy to trade prospects in a year like this, so only prospects from contending teams were considered
  • Since there’s no realistic possibility of the Orioles trading Dylan Bundy or the Braves dealing Julio Teheran, the truly elite prospects won’t appear on the list
  • The Twins traded Delmon Young and Jim Thome to AL Central foes last year, but they probably would not make a major trade with a division opponent, so no AL Central prospects made the list
  • By rule, no team can trade a drafted player until one year after he signs; thus, the Twins could not go after any 2011 draft picks who did not sign before July 31 of that year
  • Only minor league names appear on this list; it’s possible that the Twins could go after a pitcher who has broken into The Show, but we’ll assume that most contenders would want to keep any pitcher who could help the team this season

Finally, I am not saying that any of these pitchers actually are available on the trade market. Some may be considered untouchable by their teams. The Twins might not have the right players needed to acquire others. If you are a fan of an opposing team, please don’t have an aneurysm that a Minnesota Twins fan would have the gall to suggest the Twins could acquire your favorite prospect.

With that said, here are my 10 pitching prospect targets for the Twins (in alphabetical order):

1. Cody Buckel, RHP, Rangers

He won’t be 20 years old until tomorrow, but Buckel has been absolutely nasty to High-A hitters. He leads the Carolina League in ERA (1.31) and strikeouts (91). His fastball is not blazing, but he has a plus changeup according to one Ranger-centered site that profiles him as a #3 starter. Another site pegs him as a future closer.

2. Daniel Corcino, RHP, Reds

Twins Assistant GM Wayne Krivsky may have had a hand in signing Corcino, who started pitching in the Reds organization in 2008, just after Krivsky was ousted as Cincinnati GM. Corcino has blossomed nicely – last year at low A ball, he struck out 156 in 139.1 innings, and this year he has a solid 3.77 ERA  and 8.7 K/9 at class AA. ESPN’s Keith Law listed Corcino as the #54 prospect in baseball this year and praised his 92-96 mph fastball and promising changeup.

3. Jeurys Familia, RHP, Mets

He has a 96 mph fastball, and he’s already at AAA at age 22. Control may be an issue, as Familia has issued 38 free passes this year in 60 AAA innings, but he has consistently struck out hitters (8.7 K/9 in the minors). If there’s one thing the Twins could definitely use, it’s a young flamethrowing starter.

4. Matt Harvey, RHP, Mets

Familia isn’t the only Met on this list. New York’s NL team seems to have an abundance of minor league pitchers, which we can hope means they’ll be willing to part with one or two. Some argue that Harvey may be the best of the bunch. Like Familia, the 23 year old Harvey has reached AAA and is striking out about a batter per inning there, thanks to a fastball that hits 98 mph.

5. John Hellweg RHP, Angels

Hellweg’s numbers at AA are not overwhelming this year (4.15 ERA, 51 Ks in 69.1 innings), but he does have a potent fastball that can reach 97 or 99, depending on whether he’s starting or relieving. He’s a towering giant at 6’8″, but he has had some control problems. Hellweg is definitely a project who would have to fine tune his command before he could reach the Majors.

6. Zach Lee, RHP, Dodgers

The Twins should like Lee’s control. At High-A Rancho Cucamonga this season, he has only walked nine batters in 52 innings compared to 52 strikeouts. Lee features the standard four pitch mix with a fastball that sits in the low 90s but can be faster at times. His profile reads like a standard Twins-type pitcher with the potential to be more.

7. Justin Nicolino, LHP, Blue Jays

Nicolino’s 1.34 ERA would lead the Midwest League if he had enough innings to qualify, but the Blue Jays’ Class A affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts, has been alternating its starters between starting and relief outings for some reason. His 45-9 K-BB ratio is quite stellar. As a lefty who can throw strikes and get batters out, he should have a future as a mid-rotation starter at least.

8. Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays

If Nicolino’s numbers for Class A Lansing are impressive, Sanchez’s are downright amazing. He is 6-0 with a miniscule 0.84 ERA and 10.0 K/9. He uses a mid-90s fastball as an out pitch, but his curve has a lot of potential as well. As is the case with a lot of power pitchers, Sanchez has a fairly high walk rate, but at age 19 he has plenty of time to work on control.

9. Noah Syndergaard, Blue Jays

Three Blue Jays in a row, and all are pitching for the Lugnuts. Syndergarrd’s 3.72 ERA does not look too impressive next to those of his teammates, but he has struck out nearly 12 batters per nine innings. MLB.com had Syndergaard as the #82 prospect in baseball coming into the 2012 season. He can blow hitters away with a high-90s fastball, and his secondary pitches could become good ones also. All three Jays’ prospects on this list have a long way to go before they reach the Majors, but any one of them could benefit a patient organization.

10. Zack Wheeler, Mets

Perhaps the most highly rated prospect on this list, Wheeler was dealt from the Giants to the Mets last year for Carlos Beltran. The Giants might soon be kicking themselves for that move. Beltran hit well after the trade, but he couldn’t put San Francisco over the top in the AL West, and he left as a free agent. Wheeler may be a star in the not-too distant future. He holds a 1.92 ERA this year for Class AA Binghamton, thanks to his mid-90s fastball and vicious curve. He strikes batters out, doesn’t walk too many, and keeps men off the bases.