Friday, August 31, 2012

Pitchers Who can Contribute to a Future Twins' Playoff Team

Last week, I investigated which position players on the current 40-man roster can help a potential Twins playoff team.  If you want to read it, click here.  In my mind, the first possible contending season is 2014, although I feel that could be a bit of a stretch.  For the purposes of this post, I am going to look at 2014 as the first year of the turnaround, which might be putting too much faith in the rebuilding process.  There are some very interesting position players on the 40-man roster.  

Pitchers, not so much.

Again, we will start at the bottom and work our way up.

First, there are a few minor leaguers who are not on the 40-man roster, who likely will be a part of the 2013 and 2014 teams.  Pitchers can really come and go, especially cheap pitchers.  However, I don't see these arms as huge contributors, beyond potential middle relievers or spot starters.  There are also a few AAA starters who could get a shot, but none really interest me long term.  There is one exception:

Kyle Gibson

John Sickels of SB Nation wrote extensively about Gibson this past week.  You should read it.  In this piece, he states that Gibson still has the ceiling of a number 2 starter, if all things click.  Gibson was drafted as a low ceiling, low floor pitcher.  The fact that he will be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2013 will give us a good idea of how close he gets to that ceiling.  I see him as a mainstay in the Twins rotation starting in 2014 and I think he can contribute significantly as a young, cheap command specialist.  I am very high on Gibson.

Luis Perdomo, Jeff Manship,  and Kyle Waldrop

To save your time and mine, let's lump these three together.  Nothing to see here, let's just move along.

Lester Oliveros

Oliveros has actually pitched well in AAA this year.  He is young enough (24) to get a shot.  If he can maintain his AAA strikeout and walk ratios, he could be an effective reliever.  He hasn't maintained those rations when in the MLB in the past, but he is worth a look.  I doubt he is pitching high-leverage innings on any playoff team though.  He also had Tommy John surgery this week, so he won't be doing much of anything in 2013.

Pedro Hernandez

He has really good minor league walk rates and really poor minor league strikeout rates.  I'll go out on a limb and say he has about zero upside.  He could spot start here and there, but lots of spot starts don't typically equate to fantastic team success. 

Carlos Gutierrez

According to Wikipedia, Carlos Gutierrez is an American former CEO and former U.S. Cabinet Member who is currently a Vice Chairman of Citigroup's Institutional Clients Group. He has previously served as the 35th U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 2005 to 2009.  I don't remember any of this.  He lost most of this season to injury and he will be 26 next season.  His business skills must be pretty good though.    

Deolis Guerra

Ah, the Crown Jewel!   The most intriguing piece in the Johan Santana trade might finally be MLB ready.  He is actually posting his highest walk rate since he was 19 years old and his strikeout rate is not good enough to mask it.  It seems like we have been hearing about him for 50 years, but he is only 23 years old.  If he can get his control in order a bit, he might be able to help in the bullpen.  Of course, you can say that about quite a few pitchers and sometimes, it still doesn't work out. 

Alex Burnett

Speaking of not working out; zing!  That is unfair.  His walk rate has dropped each of his three MLB seasons.  But, his strikeout rate has dropped as well.  In fact, he currently sports a nifty 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio.  Nifty is the wrong word, I think I was looking for terrible.  His ERA and WHIP aren't bad though.  I do not know what to think of Alex Burnett.  I think there have to be better options. 

Tyler Robertson

Man, Robertson is a hoss.  He is left-handed, doesn't throw all that hard, but has a good strikeout rate since being called up.  Currently, he is walking too many batters to have long term success.  If Glen Perkins closes next year, having a second lefty to go with Brian Duensing could be useful.  The thing with all these bullpen guys is that they are so interchangeable.  Many are so much the same that you can use just about anyone and get similar results.  In 2012, the Twins drafted a bunch of college relievers.  These guys could move fast and take the place of these mediocre relievers that are currently playing for the Twins.  Most of these draftees throw a lot harder too. 

PJ Walters

6.47 ERA in 87 MLB innings over 4 different seasons.  The best thing that ever happened to his 2013 chances of playing with the Twins was the long term injury he is almost over.  Oh, he also has an ERA over 4.5 in over 500 AAA innings.  That seems like a big enough sample.

Anthony Swarzak

Swarzak isn't a bad guy to have around.  A long man/spot starter can have value, if used properly.  Instead of having a 13 man pitching staff, a properly used long man/spot starter can help increase the bench players on the offensive side.  Ideally, an 11 man pitching staff would be used.  This doesn't seem likely though.  Times have changed and the long man/spot starter has a lot less value these days.  Swarzak isn't terrible, but he can't start long term.  So, he doesn't really have much value. 

Matt Capps

Capps was once a useful reliever.  Back when he was young and cheap, the Pirates used him as a closer and he had success.  Washington signed him to a short term deal, he had success as a closer there and they parlayed him into a young, promising catcher.  Let's not discuss that.  Now that he is free agency eligible, he has not been a useful reliever.  However, some team is going to sign him to a super cheap contract next year and he could pay off.  He has good control to go with a decent strikeout rate.  It isn't crazy to think that he could help a playoff team as early as next year.  He will only be 29 and if he was just injured the last two years, he might return to the pitcher he basically was from 2006-2010. 

Carl Pavano

I think Pavano is done with Minnesota.  He might not retire, but he has been injury prone almost his entire career and will be 37 next year.  I actually forgot how well he pitched in 2010, but that magic is almost certainly gone.  Oh well, at least he had a mustache.

Cole De Vries

I have devoted a decent amount of words to Cole De Vries in my weekly notes.  I am not a fan.  He nibbles and he has no out pitch.  As a AAA starter who can come up in a pinch, he's fine.  On a playoff team, you really don't want a guy like this in your rotation.  A team like the Yankees could use him I guess, since they can score a million runs and they are pretty much a lock for the playoffs every year.  The degree of difficulty is just a touch higher here in Minnesota.

Samuel Deduno

I plan to spend a lot more time discussing why I have no faith in Sam Deduno, but not here.  Let's just say that it is better for everyone involved if he regresses to the mean during September.  His strikeout to walk ratio is below 1.  I realize this isn't the only stat that matters, but come on.  He isn't going to have long term success, based on the history of well, baseball.  He was compared to R.A. Dickey and Justin Verlander during a recent Twins broadcast though.  Not bad company.

Casey Fien

He's fien.  Well, that was irresistible.  Actually, he has been more than fine since getting called up.  His minor league track record is actually pretty good, although he didn't start pro ball until age 22.  He didn't have any MLB success in the past, but his minor league peripherals seem to have come with him to the MLB this time around.  His hit rate is super low and he hasn't thrown a lot of innings, so he could certainly come back to Earth a bit.  It seems like giving him a chance in 2013 wouldn't hurt too much.  The point I made about younger relievers coming up does affect his long-term value a bit though. 

Brian Duensing

Now we get to the "two players" portion of the roster.  In this case, Duensing is one player in the rotation and one player in the bullpen.  That one player in the bullpen is a lot better than that one player in the rotation.  He likely was only put in the rotation this year because there were so many injuries.  He is clearly better off as a lefty specialist.  I made a crude Carlos Beltran reference in my weekly notes column on Monday, but basically Duensing vs. right handed batters = nonstop Carlos Beltrans.  It is best to leave him where there are not nonstop borderline hall of famers facing him.  As a lefty middle reliever, he can have some value. 

Liam Hendriks

Liam Hendriks seems to be two different players as well.  AAA Hendriks is dominant, MLB Hendriks loves home runs.  He is still young and promising enough to figure it out.  If he does, he can be a 3 or a 4 in a good rotation.  I hope he doesn't have to ever masquerade as a 1 or a 2 though.  A playoff Twins team in 2014 likely depends on Hendriks at the end of the rotation.

Scott Baker

There are two Scott Bakers as well, because I love this gimmick.  Scott Baker healthy is great.  Scott Baker injured is injured.  Unfortunately, Scott Baker injured seems to be more common.  It is a shame because his season last year was really fantastic.  He was finally getting good results to go with his excellent peripheral stats.  Scott Baker injured showed up and then stuck around through the offseason.  Hopefully, he can come back from Tommy John and pick up where he left off.  I am a huge advocate for finding out if he can as a Twin.  I hope they sign him to a one or even two year deal and see what he has.  He will only be 31 next year, so he could still have 4-5 good years left.  At this point, given his injury history, it is very hard to rely on him as an impact player going forward.  If anyone on this list can exceed expectations, it is Baker. 

Scott Diamond

Every statistical bone in my body says that his success cannot be sustained.  His strikeout rate is just way too low.  Throw in the fact that he wasn't much of a prospect at any point and the fact that he was taken in the rule 5 draft, and it just doesn't add up.  However, I have a hard time arguing with his results.  He just doesn't walk anyone, ever.  He basically is the left-handed Brad Radke (or at least he has been for half a season).  I want to see it repeated at least once.  If he has a comparable season in 2013, then I will be ready to admit that he is a statistical anomaly.  Anomalies exist, so it is certainly possible.  I still don't think a good Twins team is relying on Scott Diamond to pitch a Game 1 or Game 2 in the playoffs, but maybe Game 3?  A pretty decent statistical comparison for Diamond is Mark Buehrle.  Although, Diamond actually gets more ground balls and has a lower walk rate.  Again, he has to repeat it, but it's possible. 

Jared Burton

Jared Burton was a really nice find.  He has cut his walks down significantly since his days in Cincinnati and it has made him into a really good pitcher.  His surface stats are fully supported by the peripheral stats.  Having a good, cheap set-up man or closer is very valuable.  He does hit free agency in 2014, which is worrisome.  It is especially worrisome if he closes next year.  Saves are expensive.  It is possible that he falls victim to the young relievers that are coming down the line as well.  If he pitches like he has this year, he can help any team.  If he gets expensive, I hope it happens elsewhere.  

Glen Perkins

The brightest star in the Twins pitching sky just happens to be a failed starter.  This is not entirely unique, as a lot of relievers are failed starters.  Not all failed starters take to the bullpen as easily and dominantly as Perkins has.  He has good stuff, a good strikeout rate and a good walk rate.  I also think he has something that some would argue does not exist:  the closer mentality.  I will always believe that some pitchers just can't handle the 9th inning, regardless of the numbers not supporting that claim.  Arguing against the concept of a closer mentality argues against the concept of human psychology, in my opinion.  Ok, that is a separate subject for another day.  Perkins is great though.  There really isn't much more to say.  He looks calm on the mound, he throws a good fastball and he isn't afraid to go right at hitters.  I really like him and I am glad they locked him up cheaply for a few years. 

In summary

In my opinion, the following players will play a significant role on a future Twins playoff team:

Glen Perkins, Kyle Gibson, Scott Baker (if resigned)

The following players could play a significant role, if the Twins contend in 2014:

Jared Burton

The following players could play a smaller but maybe not significant role on a good Twins team:

Brian Duensing, Liam Hendriks, Scott Diamond

It is too early to tell, but these young players are exciting and could contribute:


The remaining players either will not be around, or will not contribute positively. 

What do you think of this list?

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