This week, we'll be taking a closer look at the Twins call up, right-hander Michael Tonkin. In a somewhat surprising move, the Twins decided to call Tonkin up while lefty reliever Brian Duensing was out on paternity leave. Tonkin, who spent the 2013 season split between New Britain and Rochester, ended up having a pretty good year for a somewhat-unknown reliever.
Name: Michael Harvey Tonkin
Date of Birth: 11/19/1989
Birthplace: Glendale, CA
Weight: 220 lbs.
Tonkin's career with Minnesota started in 2008, where he spent the next two years with the Gulf Coast League. His numbers weren't bad while he was there -- he averaged a 3.45 ERA the two seasons, sporting a 3.27 in '08 and 3.62 in '09. In 2010, the Twins promoted him to Elizabethton and then Beloit, where he had a more difficult time settling in. His 2010 Beloit numbers weren't great; Tonkin posted a 4.29 ERA in 65+ innings pitched, with 76 hits and 18 walks.
Yes, this is a real photo of Michael Tonkin. You're welcome.
2011 and 2012 saw Tonkin improving greatly -- he spent the two seasons in Beloit and Fort Myers, where all of his numbers improved, most notably the 20 walks compared to 90 strikeouts. These numbers are what prompted the team to take a closer look at Tonkin in 2013, where he spent the season split with New Britain and Rochester. His new Britain numbers looked good, as he posted a 2.22 ERA with just 8 walks and 30 Ks in 24+ innings. When the Twins moved him to Rochester that same year, he did have a little more difficulty adjusting and gave up just 8 walks again, but a considerable amount of more hits (21 to 33, from New Britain and Rochester respectively). His strikeout number continued to rise, however, and he ended his Rochester season with 36 Ks.
The Twins did call Tonkin up to pitch for 9 games (11.1 innings) at the end of the 2013 season. He posted a .790 ERA in those appearances, giving up 9 hits and 6 runs (only one earned). He walked 3 batters in those 11 innings, but also struck out another 10.
This season, I expect to see more of Tonkin as a call up, especially if he can start limiting his hits given up in Rochester. It seems like he's been more able to control the walks given up, and his strikeout numbers continue to rise, which is always fun to see, but the main factor for his success will rely on him not allowing so much contact (which is difficult when your club's motto appears to have been "pitch to contact").
And if watching a minor leaguer rise through the ranks with some good, old-fashioned hard work isn't enough to make you want to see this kid succeed, know this: he is also Jason Kubel's brother-in-law.