It's a bit of a downtime for prospect watchers as there are no stats to look at and the press runs the same stories about Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. There are a few positional battles on the big league club, like who will grab that last rotation spot, what they do with Diamond and Worley, will Pinto break with the club as a starter and what the bench will look like. All are fun to think about and its going to be an interesting spring. But for me there is one story that is going to be super interesting: who the heck is going to crack the starting rotation at Cedar Rapids next year?
Everyone here knows the Twins have an amazing bunch of young prospects with hitters like Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler & Sano and Pitchers like Alex Meyer, Trevor May & J. O. Berrios. However, the pitching behind this group has some names that we are all starting to get to know. These are pitchers who were drafted in 2012 and 2013 or brought in as international free agents who stand a real chance at being impact arms. These pitchers are going to need innings to build up strength, get experience and prove they are not just guys who dominated Rookie Ball but can advance in the system.
When I look at what happened last year in the GCL, E-Town and Cedar Rapids, I see a list of 18 guys who could potentially be starters at Cedar Rapids next year. This is based off age, progression, draft position and past history of how Twins develop pitchers.
18!?! - Think I'm crazy? Lets look at the list and what they did last year at their last level:
Felix Jorge - He is the big name and did really well last year in E-Town. Struck a lot of guys out and kept batters off base. He is almost a lock to be in the Kernels rotation.
Yorman Landa – He didn't strike out batters as much as I would like but kept the ball on the ground. He is young and looks to have good stuff. He did well in winter ball this year in relief. He is young at just 19.
Hein Robb – A left handed South African who did everything asked of him at E-Town last year. Could stand to strike out more guys but keeps walks down. In terms of age and progression, he is ready to be a starter at Cedar Rapids.
Randy Rosario – Another lefty with a solid fastball, and a ground ball pitcher. I liked this kid going into last year but his strikeout numbers were down. He has yet to give up a home run as pro so he is still getting ground outs and would do well with a good defense behind him. He battled a sore arm last year.
Kuo Hua Lo – Good numbers for this pitcher from Taiwan. Has been progressing in the bullpen and as a starter. He is not tall but seems to pitch well.
Stephen Gonsalves – 4th round 2013 draft pick with good stuff and great 2013 numbers. He has shown he is already too advanced for E-town.
Kohl Stewart - The fourth overall pick in 2013. In most other organizations he would be locked in as a starter this year. He didn't pitch a lot in 2013 as he was bit dinged up.
Austin Malinowski – Signed for a large bonus in 2011. Did everything he had to do last year and is a local kid from Lino Lakes. He didn't start at all in E-Town last year but still logged 40 innings.
Ethan Mildren – 12th round pick in 2013. Tall right-handed and did well in E-Town. In past years this guy would be in the mix for a starting spot.
Ryan Eades – Second-round 2013 pick. Did poorly in his pro debut, but I am not sure how they don’t have the second pick of the draft not be a starter somewhere in the organization next year
C.K. Irby – Tenth-round selection in 2013. College guy, similar to Mildren. He might not get his chance but in past years he might have.
Aaron Slegers – Fifth-round pick in 2013. His season was good but he got lost behind the Stewart and Gonsalves hype. If he was picked in 2012 he would be in ink to start for Cedar Rapids this year. Even though it's 2014 I still I would be surprised if they moved a fifth-round guy to the bullpen so soon.
Luke Bard – Second-round pick in 2012. Hasn't been healthy. I would guess he would be in the bullpen somewhere but Twins like guys to start. They might not give up on him as a starter, but it's possible he starts the year at Fort Myers based on age and the crowded field with the Kernels.
Brian Gilbert – Seventh-round selection in 2013. Made it all the way to Cedar Rapids. Seems like the organization would like to give him a chance. Seventh rounders are not throwaway picks, so they must like him. No doubt the Twins like that he didn't walk a single batter.
Fernando Romero – International free agent out of the Dominican Republic. Interesting pitcher, not a lot of experience, great stats and good scouting reports. Is he ready for Cedar Rapids?
Hudson Boyd – Last year was a make or break for him, and he broke. Now he is in danger of being passed by. But the organization did spend a lot of money on him in 2011, so I would guess he gets a shot but it might be in the bullpen.
Lewis Thorpe – International signing out of Australia. The Thorpedo is riding a lot of helium. Can he ride that to Cedar Rapids this summer?
Miguel Sulbaran – He did very well with the Kernels last year and looks to be ready to move up. If it wasn't for his age I would say for sure he is going to Fort Myers. But, it’s the Twins so he could be asked to start the year back in in the same place.
Below is this crew’s stats:
|Player||2013 Last Level||Age||W||L||ERA||GS||IP||BB||SO||WHIP||H/9||HR/9|
|Felix Jorge||E- Town||20||2||2||2.95||12||61||18||72||1.213||8.3||0.3|
|Yorman Landa||E- Town||19||3||4||2.78||12||55||29||46||1.364||7.5||0.2|
|Hein Robb||E- Town||21||4||4||2.71||11||63||13||52||1.206||9||0.3|
|Randy Rosario||E- Town||19||4||3||2.82||9||44.2||18||37||1.343||8.5||0|
|Kuo Hua Lo||E- Town||21||2||1||2.37||4||38||14||34||1.132||6.9||0.7|
|Stephen Gonsalves||E- Town||19||1||1||1.29||3||14||4||21||1||6.4||0|
|Kohl Stewart||E- Town||19||0||0||0||1||4||1||8||0.5||2.2||0|
|Austin Malinowski||E- Town||21||4||3||2.01||0||40.1||17||43||1.091||6||0|
|Ethan Mildren||E- Town||22||1||1||1.65||0||16.1||7||13||1.347||8.3||0|
|Ryan Eades||E- Town||22||0||0||4.6||0||15.2||12||13||1.596||7.5||0|
|C.K. Irby||E- Town||21||0||1||3.29||0||13.2||7||10||1.244||6.6||0.7|
|Aaron Slegers||E- Town||21||0||0||0.47||0||19||2||18||0.947||7.6||0|
|Luke Bard||E- Town||23||1||0||1.08||0||8.1||6||6||0.96||2.2||0|
Not so Mötley
This is my prediction on who breaks camp as the 6 Man Cedar Rapids Starting Rotation:
- Felix Jorge
- Aaron Slegers
- Ryan Eades
- Austin Malinowski
- Yorman Landa
- Hein Robb
Romero, Gonsalves, Stewart & Thorpe all stay in Extended Spring. Twins will be careful with these arms and will not want them starting the season in the north when its cold. Stewart and Gonsalves never pitched in the cold before. Thorpe and Romero will probably start the year in E-Town but both could end the year at Cedar Rapids, assuming they pitch well and there is openings.
Lo goes to the CR bullpen along with Rosario, Boyd, Irby & Mildren. All of these guys might get spot starts.
Bard, Gilbert & Sulbaran go to Fort Myers.
The guys I am most unsure about are Landa & Malinowski. Its possible they move them to the bullpen and I might be wrong about Gonsalves, & Stewart. But I just can't see the organization getting them past 90 innings next year. Maybe Eades or Slegers goes to the Miracle and opens up a spot as a result. Maybe Landa's or Robb's stuff isn't good enough. Maybe a pitcher will have a great spring similar to what Baxendale did last year and gets promoted faster than planned. Maybe the Twins will just be aggressive with some of these guys.
I am really looking forward to seeing how this young crop of players will develop. I like the Twins better when they have a young and good pitching staff, so there is a lot to watch as this group moves along.
If there is one pitcher who is my pick to break out on this list it would be Gonsalves. He came out ready in 2013, pitched really well and with fire. He looks to be motivated and the Twins might decide to challenge him. And of course, Stewart could be amazing, but I think they'll be careful and bring him along slowly.