We don't know who Mr. Ryan will acquire, if anyone, this winter through free agency or via trade. He has signed AAA starter Jeremy Cummings and lefty reliever Carmen Cali. It is likely he will add a veteran starter and at least one more AAAA type guy. But who will be in the 2007 starting rotation, that is if we were breaking spring camp today?
The role of Team Ace will be in the capable hands/arm of two time Cy Young winner Johan Santana. Santana will be taking this winter off to heal from the many nagging injuries he dealt with last August/September. With him not going to the WBC next spring, he should return to normal and we can expect him to begin the season a bit slower than 2006, however, be as dominant down the stretch as he was in 2004 and 2005. Barring injury, Santana is assigned a 100% probability in the Number 1 spot of the order.
The second starter in the rotation, who may not necessarily be the Number 2 starter, will be Carlos Silva. Silva's struggles last season have been beaten to death. We do know that he was very effective in 2005 and equally ineffective throughout 2006. There is some speculation that his lack of preparation in the spring while pitching very little in the WBC may have caused some or most of his problems. We won't know which Carlos Silva shows up until late March, however, it is clear that there is about a 90% probability that Silva will be in the 2007 rotation in spot 2, 3 or 4.
From here on out we are doing some guessing and a lot of speculation. The next most likely starter is Boof Bonser, who pitched very well this past season during the Twins stretch drive for the championship. Bonser also pitched very well while with Rochester and was the 8th best pitcher in the minor league system.
Twins 7-6 100.1ip 4.22era 1.27WHIP 84K/24BB
Rochester 6-4 86.1ip 2.81era 1.19WHIP 83K/35BB
Based on Bonser's excellent performance with the Twins late last season, there is about an 80% probability that Bonser will be manning the second or third spot in the rotation.
There are three candidates who have more experience than some of the younger prospects. This group is led by Scott Baker who had an excellent experience with the Twins in 2005 and a more disappointing 2006. Can Scott make the adjustments necessary to get it done for the Twins against all of the league, not just the Yankees? Scott was the 7th best pitcher in the minor league system in 2006. Scott pitched as well as Bonser at Rochester and had a decent April with the Twins compared with the rest of the staff, therefore, he should have about a 50% chance of securing a spot in the rotation next season.
Twins 5-8 83.1ip 6.37era 1.56WHIP 62K/16BB
Rochester 5-4 84.1ip 2.67era 1.21WHIP 68K/25BB
The second more veteran prospect is the Real Deal, J.D. Durbin. After a disappointing first appearance with the Twins in 2004 and a very disappointing year at Rochester in 2005, Durbin had an excellent 2006 until his season again ended with an arm problem at mid season. Had he not gone on the DL, Durbin would likely have been called up by the Twins and may have been the young starter we are talking about rather than Bonser. Durbin pitched well enough in 2006 to earn the 4th best spot in the system, behind only Garza, Slowey and Neshek. Durbin should have about a 40% chance of beginning the season as a starter for the Twins. Considering that he is out of options, Durbin must stay with the Twins or he will be lost on waivers...but will he be able to cut down on more than 5BB/9ip?
Rochester 4-3 89.0ip 2.33era 1.31WHIP 81K/50BB
The final veteran minor leaguer who was recently signed is Jeremy Cummings. Many of us have heard about Cummings because of his no-hitter against the Red Wings last season. Before we get to excited about Cummings, who recently turned 30, we need to compare his performance against the starters in the Twins system. When doing that, we learn that he would have been the 34th best pitcher in the system had he been pitching for Rochester rather than Scranton. It is interesting to note that the #33 pitcher in the Twins system was Mike Smith who pitched very well for the Red Wings, however, struggled in his one start against Kansas City. Look for Cummings to be a valuable member of the Red Wings staff, however, has about a 10% chance of breaking spring camp in the Twins rotation.
Scranton 8-6 138.1ip 3.97era 1.22WHIP 102K/49BB
There are three other candidates who will be watched closely in spring camp, Matt Garza, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey. Garza had one of the more spectacular seasons of any Twin ever as he rocketed from Ft. Myers to New Britain to Rochester to Minnesota within a year following being drafted out of Cal State-Fullerton. Garza, who was the top ranked pitcher in the system, had a season that was comparable to the seasons Justin Verlander and Francisco Liriano had in 2005. Will Garza become the pitcher in 2007 that they were in 2006? It remains to be seen, however, the 2006 Minor League Pitcher of the Year is a strong candidate (60% probability) to man one of the starting spots at the beginning of 2007.
Twins 3-6 50.0ip 5.76era 1.70WHIP 38K/23BB
Rochester 3-1 34.0ip 1.85era 0.79WHIP 33K/7BB
NewBritain 6-2 57.1ip 2.51era 0.94WHIP 68K/14BB
Ft. Myers 5-1 44.1ip 1.42era 0.86WHIP 53K/11BB
The second candidate is Glen Perkins who had a terrible record at New Britain, a record that didn't accurately reflect how well he pitched as he was the 15th ranked pitcher in the system. Perkins moved up to Rochester where he pitched very well in a late season start and a few starts in the playoffs. Perkins pitched well out of the bullpen for the Twins in late September and was added to their playoff roster. It is likely Perkins will begin next season at Rochester, however, with a good spring he should have about a 40% chance of opening the season in the Twins rotation.
Twins 0-0 5.2ip 1.59era 0.53WHIP 6K/0BB
Rochester 0-1 4.1ip 2.08era 2.54WHIP 3K/5BB
NewBritain 4-11 117.1ip 3.91era 1.31WHIP 131K/41BB
Although there can certainly be a surprise and another prospect will step-up in spring training, the last real candidate for a starting spot is Kevin Slowey. Garza was the top pitcher in the system with a rating of 149.887, however, Slowey was nearly as good with the second best performance in the system while accumulating 148.509 points. Like Garza, Slowey had a whirlwind season which he began in Ft. Myers and was promoted to New Britain after striking out all three batters he faced in the FSL All-Star game...on 9 pitches. He left New Britain early to pitch for the U.S. team in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Havana, where he started and won the championship game against host Cuba. He joined the Red Wings for their championship series against Toledo, getting their first win in game 2. He finished the year as one of the best pitchers for Mesa in the Arizona Fall League. Kevin will likely begin the season in Rochester and has an excellent chance of joining the Twins during the season, however, has about a 30% probability of opening the season as a member of the Twins rotation.
Ft. Myers 4-1 89.1ip 1.01era 0.68WHIP 99K/9BB
NewBritain 4-3 59.1ip 3.19era 1.06WHIP 52K/13BB
Mesa (AFL) 0-1 19.0ip 2.37era 1.11WHIP 12K/2BB
It appears that if the Twins were to break camp today for the 2007 season, their starting rotation would include:
Others that will seriously compete for one of the spots include J.D. Durbin, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey. With Durbin out of options, he may move into one of the starting spots or earn a spot as a long reliever in the bullpen. With a total of 8 legitimate candidates, the Twins have plenty of good young arms to have a fine starting staff next season.