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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Looking Ahead: Future Pitching Rotations and a "Forgotten" Prospect

Alex Wimmers: Let's Not Forget About Him

EDIT: The Twins have traded Ben Revere to the Phillies in exchange for starter Vance Worley and a pitching prospect, Trevor May. Worley is generally considered a #3 starter, and is also going to be under team control. May, 23, was rated Baseball America's 69th best prospect pre-2012. So already my post is obsolete. Add both of these guys to the mix, and congratulate Terry Ryan on a job well done (in my opinion).

It's no secret now that the Twins are essentially punting in 2013. It's disappointing. I felt it coming months ago (as did many of you). Make no mistake -- I'm not fine with it by any means. But I more or less accept it (or I'm just mentally tired of being angry about it), provided that this organization is willing to spend next season at this time to bring this team back into contention. Honestly, it's simply too draining to continue yelling at the organization to spend more money where there is not much hope of it happening.

It's also no secret that pitching seems to win championships, or at the very least, goes a long way toward getting a team into the playoffs. And of course, it's starting pitching that the Twins lack now. The Denard Span for Alex Meyer trade is -- potentially -- a big step toward helping shore up a future rotation. With that in mind, I want to take a quick look at who could comprise the Twins' rotation in 2014 or 2015, and what will be left to purchase on the open market.

Scott Diamond. Let's hope he continues to prove that he can be a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. Let's hope that he can improve with more experience. He would be affordable and under team control in 2014 and 2015.

Liam Hendriks/Sam Deduno: I hope one of these two players pans out as a #4 or #5 type starter. Something a little better than an "innings-eater." For the sake of this post, I'm just going to guess that one, but not both, will become a permanent starter. Again, both will be under team control and inexpensive in 2014 and 2015.

Alex Meyer: The Twins would not have made the Span trade if they did not believe that Meyer was a top-shelf prospect. I've read that he projects as a #2 or #3 pitcher. That's great. He can also throw 100 miles per hour. Accordingly, he becomes the organization's best pitching prospect. If he can stay healthy and successful and reach the majors in 2014, that is excellent. He, too, will be cheap for the next several years.

Kyle Gibson: What will 2013 bring for Gibson? In my view, a spot in the Twins' rotation is his to lose. Expectations should be low in 2013. So what if he has a little trouble adjusting to the majors? Let him get it out of his system in 2013, so that he's a better, more experienced pitcher in subsequent years, when wins will matter. Gibson is also cheap in 2014 and 2015.

And the player about whom not to forget: Alex Wimmers. I'm disappointed that he's apparently being written off by some Twins fans. Yes, he has had his share of mental (control) and physical (Tommy John) issues. So what? None of that really matters if he now has the ability to stay mentally and physically healthy. He also profiled as (probably) a #3 starter, maybe a #2 at his ceiling. He is older -- just having turned 24 last month -- so as long as he is healthy and dominant, the Twins will have no reason to hold him back in terms of development and advancement (but, of course, they would be prudent to limit his innings in his first season back after surgery). Even though Wimmers' anticipated debut was significantly delayed as a result of his surgery, he still could join the Twins' some time in 2014.

As I see it -- trying to be somewhat optimistic, but also realistic -- this organization has a few #3-type pitchers, a #2 pitcher in Meyer, and the possibility of #4 and #5 starters, all of whom could make close to league minimum in 2014 and 2015. Given these possibilities, acquiring an "ace" type pitcher for 2014, or even 2 very dominant and experienced pitchers, is absolutely doable, and affordable. And let's not forget J.R. Berrios. Because he is so new to the system, and to professional baseball, I didn't even mention him in this post as an option for 2014 or 2015. But he was successful in his first half-season of pro ball, so let's hope that he keeps it up and pushes for a spot -- whether he sticks as a starter or becomes a dominant reliever -- sooner, rather than later!

Yes, anything can happen. Diamond could prove to be a flash in the pan. Hendricks may never establish himself as a viable starter, and Deduno may never be able to sufficiently control that fastball. But for as much bad luck as the Twins have had the last couple years, just having 1 of those 3 pitchers turn into a reliable starter, and having Meyer and Wimmers reach close to their potential -- as they should be expected to -- and the 2014 or 2015 Twins' rotation, primarily composed of homegrown pitchers with hopefully a couple expensive studs, doesn't look too bad.

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