Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kyle Gibson: The Man, the Myth, the Legend

As May has drawn to a close, I have named Kyle Gibson as the Fourth Strike Prospect of the month for May. It is an honor I know he will always cherish as much as his future Cy Young. There was a lot of excitement when he was drafted as people imagined a Matt Garza like quick move through the minors and impact. Well, he has certainly had a Garza-like first two months as a professional. In 7 starts at Fort Myers, Gibson was 1.87 ERA 43.1 IP 40 K 1.038 WHIP. Garza in 8 Fort Myers starts was 1.42 ERA 44.1 IP 53 K .857 WHIP. Gibson similarly has moved the domination train to New Britain. In 4 starts he is 1.37 ERA 26.1 IP 23 K .949 WHIP.

The excitement about Gibson is not just the domination but how he is going about it. He has a very good 8.1 K/9 rate but if they don't strike out they will ground out. His ground out / fly out ratio is 3.48 so far on the year. Keep in mind "ground ball" pitcher Nick Blackburn has a ratio of 1.56 for the year. So to put in perspective how good his potential think of a pitcher who strikeouts players like Liriano but also gets groundballs twice as much as Blackburn. He does this with a 91-92 mph sinking fastball, a plus slider at 82-85 and a solid changeup.

Gibson was drafted in the same class as Stephen Strasburg and Mike Leake. While he will be the last one to make the majors, he certainly appears to have all the makings of joining those two to make a very impressive trio. GM Bill Smith was stated recently that they are going to limit his innings this year ending any thought he would be a September call-up or likely see the Twins this year. If Garza can be used as an example of the plan for Gibson, after 8 starts at High A he made 10 starts at AA before finishing the year at AAA with 5 more starts. Garza ended up with 135.2 innings for the year at the 3 starts. Gibson has been pitching further in starts but that would seem to be a reasonable plan for the first year.

The Twins would never admit it but they already know when he will debut barring any injuries. He will be a call-up in mid-June next year so they can delay his arbitration so those that predict he will be an opening day start don't understand the economics of the game. Until then just enjoy the ride of watching his progress in the minors.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quick Strikes

  • There is good Pavano and bad Pavano. Today was simply bad Pavano. Expect his next start to be 7 innings and 2 runs.
  • Twins record is still very good but they are 5-6 in the last 11 games.
  • Yes, Mauer and Morneau are clearly the best players, but the DL stint of Hardy is showing that he is one of our most important players. There is a world of difference between him as short versus Brendan Harris or Alexi Casilla.
  • Did anyone out there expect the Wolves to get a top 3 pick. Never the less I am now hoping for the Wolves to draft Wesley Johnson. They are 6-7 players away from a decent team but he can be the scoring wing they need.
  • I just realized how big of a Magic fan I am when it occurred that I was cheering J.J. Reddick. Dwight Howard is making me do crazy things.
  • I know Detroit is only 2 back and has uber-slugger in Cabrera but does anyone still see them as a legitimate threat. Yes, we have Punto but they are putting Carlos Guillen at 2nd base and give consistent at-bats to Brandon Inge and Gerald Laird.
  • It is a shame that the NHL does a horrible job of promoting its product and Americans hate anything Canadians love because playoff hockey is so underrated. On just a pure entertainment level it is surpassed only by March Madness and October Baseball. This San Jose - Chicago series is so fast and intense.
  • If Trevor Mbakwe does actually leave the Gophers the program in one year will go from an up and coming perennial Big Ten title contender to a perennial NIT team. I don't think excitement can leave a team without Kevin McHale involved. Also if he is found not guilty, the pitchforks may be headed for Joel Maturi's office as he essentially guided the exit of Royce White and Mbakwe for a misdemeanor theft and trespassing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lets Give This Another Shot - Prospect Power Rankings

Let's put the key in the ignition and see if this thing still works. After almost a year of not putting anything on this blog, I have decided with a new faster computer and an abundance of free time to start back up here. I can just picture a polite golf clap now from my two readers, my dad and my girlfriend. I will tread softly back into the blogosphere with a Twins Prospect ranking that will differ greatly from the last post last year. The previous ranking would be where I had them going into this current season.

1. SP Kyle Gibson - AA New Britain
Age: 22
Pre-Season Ranking: 3
Total Stats: 50.2 IP 1.60 ERA 50 K
AA Stats: 7.1 IP 0.00 ERA 10 K
The Twins 1st round pick in last year's draft had the expectation that he had the chance to be an ace and move quickly through the organization, but he has blown away the expectations. He already has a complete game 1-hitter to his name. His first start at the AA level may have been even a better start with 10 K's. If he doesn't strike out the batter they ground out. He has a ground out to fly out ratio of 3.57. Think Nick Blackburn but with Liriano's strikeout ratio. Baring injuries he won't be seen this year but he could easily be in the opening day rotation in 2011.

2. OF Aaron Hicks - Low A Beloit
Age: 20
Pre-Season Ranking: 1
Stats: .272 3 HR 10 RBI .395 OBP .800 OPS
By almost all publications he the biggest prospect in the Twins system. He was ranked as the 19th best prospect by Baseball America. He has shown flashes of the skill that has lead to all the rankings but he has been marked by inconsistency all year. He started the year batting 1-30, then hit around .400 for the next couple weeks. He has recently hit another rough patch hitting .194 in the last 10 games. The most encouraging aspect of his game so far is his patience at the plate. He has 25 walks so far on the season in which has lead to the one of the highest OBP in the farm system. He will spend most of the season in Beloit, but should get a taste of Fort Myers by July.

3. C Wilson Ramos - AAA Rochester
Age: 22
Pre-Season Ranking: 2
MLB Stats: .296 0 HR 1 RBI .321 OBP .729 OPS
AAA Stats: .160 3 HR 9 RBI .190 OBP .487 OPS
Even the Twins fan who doesn't track the minors at all is aware of Wilson Ramos. When Mauer went down with a bruised heel, he came up and made his presence felt. He even had people having heated debates on what to do with him. Some of the less intelligent fans calling for Mauer to move to 3rd to make room. He then did cool down and showed why he is still a prospect and not a finished product. He still has the potential to be an all-star catcher. I am of the camp that he can be a factor next year as the backup catcher and right-handed DH.

4. 3B Miguel Sano
Age: 17
Pre-Season Ranking: 4
While he has not officially been assigned to a team it is believed he will join the Gulf Coast Rookie League when they start in late June. Sano combined with Gibson where the 1st signs that the Twins budget had changed well before the re-signing of Mauer. He signed last summer for the second -largest bonus in team history right behind St. Mauer's. He profiles as a slugging 3rd baseman. It is hard to project a 17-year old but his ceiling would be a .300-35-120.

5. 3B Danny Valencia - AAA Rochester
Age: 25
Pre-Season Ranking: 6
Stats: .305 0 HR 20 RBI .343 OBP .747 OPS
He is known to many as the next 3rd baseman for the Twins. He is currently being blocked by the Gardenhire-Punto love fest. Don't get me wrong I have no problem that he is not currently up here but even if Punto is batting .180 I can still see him sticking with him and Valencia toiling away in upstate New York. He got off to a slow start and has still not hit a home run, but is currently on a 20 game hitting streak. I haven't reached it yet but the more at bats people like Tolbert, Harris and Casilla get the closer I will get to the boiling point that he is not in Minneapolis yet.

6. OF Ben Revere - AA New Britain
Age: 22
Pre-Season Ranking: 5
Stats: .279 1 HR 10 RBI .353 OBP .680 OPS 11 SB
I have never been a huge fan of his despite being back-to-back minor league player of the year in the organization, and his start in AA has not changed my opinion. He somehow has a lower slugging percentage than a on-base percentage. He has 34 hits on the year and only 4 extra base hits. There are signs that his success in the lower levels will not translate. The two biggest issues are that his batting average has decreased at every level with him hitting only .279 so far and that his stolen bases has gone down. He had 45 stolen bases last year and to date has only 11 in 15 attempts. You would have trouble to find a player that stolen bases go up as they hit the majors. The only way I see value for the Twins for him is he moves to 2nd base. I just can't see them making room for him on the roster by moving out Cuddyer, Kubel or Young when the best he could be is another Denard Span. My guess he is more likely to be traded than don a Twins uniform.

7. SP David Bromberg - AA New Britain
Age: 22
Pre-Season Rankings: 8
Stats: 37.2 IP 3.58 ERA 25 K
Bromberg was finally recognized as a big-time prospect in the system after repeating his Beloit stats and dominating in Fort Myers. He has not been outstanding in AA and has not been dominant with some of his control issues. That being said he is holding his own at age 22 and his star has not diminished. Some warning signs are the strikeout ratio has fallen considerably so far and only pitching 37 innings in 7 starts means he is not cruising out there. It looks like he is going to be passed by Kyle Gibson in line to jump in the rotation but he could be in the Twins rotation by 2011 or opening day 2012.

8. OF Angel Morales - Low A Beloit
Age: 20
Pre-Season Ranking: 7
Stats: .244 3 HR 18 RBI .324 OBP .714 OPS 10 SB
There was some that thought with his strong second half in Beloit he would start the season in Fort Myers. He hasn't exactly forced the Twins hand to promote him yet. He has never hit for a high average and has always had issues with strikeouts. He has increased his stolen bases showcasing his overlooked tool, speed. It also gets lost because he has been around for awhile that he is only 20 and the same age of Hicks. He and Hicks will likely see Fort Myers by the second half of this year.

9. RP Anthony Slama - AAA Rochester
Age: 26
Pre-Season Ranking: 9
Stats: 24.1 IP 1.85 ERA 27 K
I don't know what more he has to do to finally get his chance at the Majors. He has dominated at every level on his way up. He was dominant in Spring Training. Batters are currently hitting .123 against him. The standard line is that he needs to work on his control but he has walked only 9 batters in 24 innings. Alex Burnett got the call and has walked 10 in 17 innings and he's doing fine. They then say it is because he is not on the 40-man roster and they would have to make room, but Clay Condrey can easily be moved to the 60 day DL to make room. Even more frustrating was info that they may finally get rid of Crain but that it might be Kyle Waldrop who would get the call. Waldrop is also not on the 40-man roster. I know his stuff doesn't blow you away but results speak louder than any scouting report should.

10. SP Liam Hendriks - High A Fort Myers
Age: 21
Pre-Season Ranking: NR
Total Stats: 41 IP 1.32 ERA 47 K
High A Stats: 7 IP 1.29 ERA 8 K
He wasn't on anyone's top 10 list coming into the season. He was not in the top 30 by Baseball America and not in the top 50 on Twinkie Town, but his performance to this point can not be ignored. There have not been many scouting reports on him to this point so I don't know if his stuff will translate to the higher levels but the stats are amazing. Of the starters in the farm system he is second in ERA, strikeouts and leads the organization in WHIP with 0.56 and hitter batting average with .136. If he keeps it up he will certainly make a few lists next year.