The Emergence of Kyle Waldrop

Another pitching prospect begins to bare his teeth.

One of Minnesota's five first-round draft picks in 2004, when Kyle Waldrop eventually makes his appearance with the Twins he'll be the third of the bunch to get to the show behind Glen Perkins and Trevor Plouffe.  As he's slowly progressed through the farm system he's provided steady but unimpressive strikeout totals, good control and an ability to moderate baserunners as a whole.

Initially groomed as a starter the Twins moved him into a relief role last season, where he threw a combined 90.2 innings between Fort Myers (high-A) and New Britain (double-A) as a 23-year old.  He allowed 94 hits, just 25 walks and struck out 50.  His biggest asset over the last couple of years, however, was his ability to keep the ball in the park, as only two balls found seats off Waldrop in 2009.

Now he's getting his first taste of triple-A, and Waldrop is taking advantage of it.  When the Twins need another bullpen arm at some point, his name will be added to the debate between Pat Neshek, Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney.  Why?

Check this out:

Rochester Red Wings W-L G IP ERA H HR BB/PA K/PA WHIP GB HR/FB XBH BABIP AVG FIP BsRA9
2010 - Kyle Waldrop 3-0 31 49.1 1.09 41 2 4.7% 16.6% 1.01 68% 4% 9 .269 .228 3.16 2.61

Some of those numbers are pretty sick, including that insane ground ball rate.  This has been one of the reasons for the success he's had over the years--his ability to induce ground balls (51% of balls in play or higher in his minor league career) does a number of things including limiting extra base hits, suppressing home runs, and essentially helping him avoid big innings.

Is Waldrop's performance sustainable?  A number of those peripherals are beating his minor league averages by a healthy margin, including strikeout rates, batting average on balls in play and even that ground ball rate.

There have been reports of better movement on his pitches this season, which is where a lot of those ground balls are coming from.  He's also completely healthy this season, which helps.  Additionally, he's actually gotten better as the season has progressed, in spite of allowing a couple additional hits:

Month

ERA

G

IP

H

BB

K

GB%

AVG

April

2.35

11

15.1

11

2

9

61%

.196

May

0.84

11

21.1

18

4

16

63%

.234

June

0.00

9

12.2

12

3

7

84%

.255

This month has been about as kind to Waldrop as it's been to Delmon Young.  Waldrop's ability get pretty much everything hit on the ground is turning him into a videogame relief pitcher--indestructable and perfect.

So no, in spite of being healthy and having that slider back at 100%, it's improbable that this torrid pace is sustainable.  But it doesn't have to be, either.  Because no matter how you break it down, the guy has been pitching extremely well...and that's what the organization will be looking at.

It's good to see Waldrop blowing away the competition.  With Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain all due to become free agents at the end of the year, the Twins will need internal options to flesh out the bullpen next spring.  When the numbers start to regress a bit, then it will get interesting:  how will Waldrop adjust?

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