Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Minnesota Twins 40 Man Roster Analysis: Starting Pitchers

Welcome to my second annual trip through the Twins' 40-man roster.  I can say annual because I did this last year.  In this series, I will analyze the players on the current 40-man roster, with an eye toward 2015.  Why 2015 and not 2014?  While I do think the Twins will be better next season, I don't see them in any sort of playoff hunt for at least one more year.  Therefore, I want to see who will contribute to the next notable Twins team. 

My plan is to break this into four parts, starting with the starting pitchers today, and working my way through the rest of the roster throughout the coming days.  I'll order the players from least likely to contribute to most likely to contribute.  When I use that word, I really am looking for contribution.  It's not enough to simply be on the roster, I want to know who will help guide the team to their next AL Central Title/first round sweep.  Kidding!  That's not cool.

Also, the Twins do need a roster spot for when they officially sign Mike Pelfrey.  I think three of the first four names are DFA candidates (one is not eligible) and could be off the roster before you read this.

It confuses me that he's on the 40-man roster right now.  I would have assumed he'd have been designated for assignment when the Twins needed the 40-man spot after the Phil Hughes signing.  Instead, the Twins let Liam Hendriks go and kept Johnson.  Hendriks would likely be in this very spot on my list, but I still would have kept him. 

Johnson is nothing special at all.  He's 29 and he's had some muted AAA success.  He was 10-4 with a 2.39 ERA in 21 starts with Pittsburgh's AAA team last season.  Of course, he barely posted a K/9 higher than 6 and he isn't some extreme control specialist or anything.  He's left-handed.  That's pretty much the only compliment I can pay him and it's not really a compliment, more of a fact.  He very well could be on the roster in 2015, but if he's pitching, the rotation is in shambles or the goal of pitching was changed from preventing runs to allowing runs. 

A lot of what I wrote about Kris Johnson can be applied to Darnell.  He's left-handed, doesn't strike out many batters and while his MLB debut would be a nice moment for him, it would likely signify that things have gone horribly wrong.  He was just added to the 40-man, so he has to remain there until after Spring Training.  He is five years younger than Johnson, so I have no problem with keeping him on the 40-man for now.  That said, if the Twins need a spot in June or July or something, I'd have no problem removing him and risking his loss. 

This may seem really high on this list, but I think 2014 is his final season with the Twins.  First, Diamond is out of options.  Second, he is arbitration-eligible in 2015.  Third, he just isn't very good.  His 2012 season really throws off our analysis of Diamond as a player, but I think we need to admit that his magic season was mostly magic.  His strand rate, ground ball rate and walk rate were all far off his career averages (and minor league numbers).  He made something work in 2012, but it doesn't appear to have been something sustainable.  Unless he finds that magic again in 2014, there seems to be little reason to keep him around.  In my mind, he doesn't seem like the type to translate to relief successfully either. 

I don't really think Albers is any better than Diamond, but he has less service time and will be cheaper going forward.  He has options as well, which is big because he can just be called up if the Twins need a starter over the next two seasons.  I also think that he could have slightly more success because he has demonstrated consistently good control.  That said, he's basically a rotation replacement who can be called upon when needed.  I don't expect him to be anything more than a fifth/sixth starter, but he could fill in nicely when injuries hit.

The Correia signing has already worked out better than I could have ever anticipated.  When you read my analysis of the signing, you'll see that I had logical reasons to hate the signing, but I was wrong about nearly all of them.  I was in the camp of Correia potentially taking starts from more talented players, but that almost never happens with the volatility of pitchers.  Correia gave the Twins consistent innings and performed better than I had anticipated.  All that said, I would be shocked if he was on the roster next season.  He is a free agent after 2014 and the Twins have young pitchers who will hopefully be ready before 2014 ends, much less when 2015 starts.   

I'm not sure that May will be ready by 2015.  His 2013 season was better than his 2012 season, but not by a whole lot.  However, he did improve and that is important.  He might be a guy who adjusts slowly.  May isn't going to be a number 1 or 2 or even 3 starter.  However, he's been very durable as a Minor League pitcher and perhaps his long-term role is a reliable back-of-the-rotation starter who gives the team a start every five days and doesn't make a fool of himself.  That type of player is quite valuable (look at how much Mike Pelfrey just got paid), but that type of player is even more valuable when they make the league minimum.  May isn't a super prospect any longer, but he's starting to become undervalued a bit, in my opinion. 

I wonder if Worley's 2011 season is clouding my judgment too much.  Looking at that 2011 season, I'm starting to see more fluke than I'd like to see.  First, his strikeout rate was the highest rate he had posted since rookie ball.  Second, his strand rate was very high - 78.2%.  His ground ball rate dipped, but his home run/fly ball rate dipped too, masking one deficiency with some luck.  His BABIP was .285, which isn't super low, but much lower than his typical MLB or high Minors season.  Everything else was in line with his career numbers, but those differences would explain his success.  I do think Worley could translate to the bullpen if necessary.  He might be too fastball-dependent to thrive as a starter, but maybe a move to shorter appearances would make his stuff look better.  Worley is in the same boat as Diamond, but he's a year younger and strikes out more batters.  I think he could still be kicking around in 2015, but I'm not sure he'll be a full-time starter by then.

I honestly do not know how to analyze Deduno.  Nothing I see looks real, but he gets results in some magical way.  His ground ball rate is elite, all of his pitches break downward and he harnessed his control in 2013.  He may not be conventional, but he gets batters out.  He has missed a fair amount of time due to injury, and he is no sure bet for Opening Day due to shoulder surgery.  It is hard for me to look at his numbers and see anything but "regression alert!" flashing brightly.  However, I'm tired of being wrong about him, so I'm going to assume he continues his tightrope walk through the Majors and contributes to the team when healthy. 

Mike Pelfrey - SUPER BONUS!!!!!

Ugh.  I really don't enjoy Mike Pelfrey.  He's a fine pitcher, I suppose, he just works too slowly for my liking.  Baseball is great, but four hour games are not.  Pelfrey got a lot of credit for his speedy recovery from TJ surgery.  He did improve in the second half, but he also wore out by September.  The hope that he will improve in his second year after TJ is justifiable, but how much improvement should we expect?  He wasn't really that great to begin with, although he did have an excellent 2010 season.  He has always been good for innings, and that is important.  Plus, he'll be under contract in 2015, so I'd guess he's part of the rotation.  I can't imagine he'll be anything more than a #5 starter, but every team needs five and he'd be one of the five.  Ugh.

Phil Hughes

Hughes is under contract for 2015, so he'll contribute.  There is a slight chance that Target Field doesn't reverse all of his fortunes and he ends up as a very effective, but pricey bullpen arm.  I choose to be more optimistic.  I wrote in depth about why I like Phil Hughes for the Twins a couple weeks ago.  Basically, his splits indicate that some real improvement can be expected and the shift in ballpark will help him as well. 

Gibson had a brutal 2013 season, but many rookies struggle in their first season.  I think Gibson has the potential to be a number 3 starter and he could reach that potential by 2015.  He has good command, good stuff and a big, durable frame.  I'm curious to see how he rebounds in 2014 and I hope he gets a long look in the Majors.  Gibson's command wasn't great with the Twins.  He also had a .350 BABIP and a 66.5% strand rate.  Those numbers should regress to the mean, his command should rebound and I think he'll be great when he re-enters the Twins rotation.

I liked the Nolasco signing for more symbolic reasons than on-field reasons.  Even so, I see almost no way that Nolasco isn't contributing positively in 2015.  Since 2008, Nolasco has averaged just under 200 innings, 13 wins and an ERA of 4.30.  He improved in 2013 and the Twins have to hope those improvements are real and that he will keep down that path.  If so, he'll be great and help a lot in 2015.  If not, he has always been a reliable innings eater and that helps a lot too.

Tomorrow, I'll post my analysis of the relievers.  The list is shorter and the volatility is higher.  It should be a whole lot of fun.


  1. I like the idea of Vanimal in the bullpen. That would make sense long term.

    1. Yeah, I just hope the Twins keep him around. He has talent and I think if he is healthy, he could be effective in a couple of roles.