The Twins, at 11 games out of first place, are at a point where they can safely begin thinking of next year. I do believe that it’s important to continue to show strides this year. As many complaints as they have had, they haven’t hit their late season swoon yet, and they have a very good chance at 70 wins this season. It would show the players on the roster that there is hope and their hard work is paying off. That doesn’t mean we can’t look to 2015, which is what I am going to do now.
Some people are looking at the Twins roster and insisting that there is a need for a free agent acquisition, but I think it’s more likely that the Twins are gun shy after spending so much for Ricky Nolasco with such limited results, and will revert back to their old style of watching for low cost arms and waiting for prospects to develop. So the Twins are going to be working, in this scenario, with arms that are currently under team control. Let’s reveal who I think will be in the opening day rotation.
Phil Hughes - I think Hughes is bound for regression in the one stat that doesn’t carry as much weight with the modern statistician anymore – wins and losses. Hughes widll be the opening day starter next year and as a result, he will end up facing much better pitching, and his opponent will be facing an inferior offense. Still, Hughes has been very reliable and very good, and has earned his way to the top of the rotation. It’s nice to say that.
Ricky Nolasco - I wonder how good Nolasco, a fly ball pitcher in a big park, would be if he didn’t have Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham in the field every day. With someone like Byron Buxton coming up soon, and without Willy in left every day, Nolasco is bound to get better. His BABIP is .360, which is insanely unfortunate over the course of a full season, and his HR/FB rate is much higher than it has been for his career, and the AL-NL switch doesn’t account for it. He’ll be better next year, and there was too much money invested in him not to make the rotation.
Tommy Milone - Milone was just the odd man out in a very good rotation in Oakland, and for the price of Sam Fuld. His pitching style is pretty much what the Twins have employed for the last 20 years. When he was acquired, I called him the “Twinsiest Twin who ever Twinned”. No way he is left out of the rotation. Too reliable. (Note: This section was written before today’s debacle. I say it still holds).
Kyle Gibson - Gibson is a lesson in patience. He wasn’t very good in his first trip to the majors, but this year, he has been quietly reliable, and if he can stay healthy, will be a solid middle of the rotation option going forward this year. He doesn’t get a lot of strike outs, but in response, he has stopped walking as many guys and induces a lot of ground balls, which is also how Carlos Silva worked when he was good. Not an ace, but I like his make-up. There will be a bit of a regression when the HR/FB rate normalizes, but hopefully not much.
Alex Meyer - I’ve said it now a couple of times, I believe, that I suspect Trevor May will not be as good as we all hope. I have no such qualms about Meyer, and I hope he makes his debut either late this year or as the 5th starter next year. Meyer walks too many guys, but makes up for it with his strike out total. His HR rate has been maintained through all levels, as has his BABIP, There are no mirrors, and the only smoke is his fastball. The walks will be an issue, but it’s what comes with the territory for hard throwers. It will be nice to give him two full years with a veteran catcher as well, to aid in his development.
This leaves guys like May, Mike Pelfrey, Sam Deduno and a myriad of other AAAA starters in the lurch. Pelfrey is still under contract, and is likely best reimagined as a long reliever. The Twins might be a bullpen that needs multiple long relievers, so he could be paired with Anthony Swarzak, so neither gets burned out. Deduno is a guy I love in middle relief. His erratic, all over the place attitude is perfect for the bullpen. May may also end up in the bullpen eventually. I suspect that will ultimately be his destination.
As for the other guys starting in Rochester? I would love the Twins to adopt an aggressive prospect advancement philosophy. When a pitcher stumbles or invariably gets injured, instead of working the old 30 year old retreads like Kris Johnson or Yohan Pino into the roster, start getting the Sean Gilmartins of the world some work in the majors. Maybe call Kohl Stewart up a season before he is 100% ready. They kept a veteran catcher for defensive purposes. Allow those prospects a chance to develop with him so the Suzuki extension has some long term benefit.
What do you think? What will Minnesota’s rotation look like in April of 2015?