I must admit, that despite all of Roger's excellent minor league reports, I was completely unaware, until today, that anyone named Mike Smith was employed by the Minnesota Twins organization. So let's just say I was surprised when I heard that Bonser was being optioned to AAA in favor of Mike Smith. Let's compare some minor league numbers from this year to get a feel for what we might expect from Mr. Smith. (Note, groundball data was found at www.minorleaguesplits.com where you can find all sorts of good stuff.)
Dude K/9 BB/9 HR/9 GB%
Scott Baker 7.5 3.3 0.5 36%
Boof Bonser 8.6 3.5 0.5 39%
Mike Smith 6.8 3.1 0.7 43%
Well, looking at it that way, there's not much hope for Mr. Smith. On the one hand, this is his best professional season since 2003. Of course, when you're 28 and it's your fourth long stint in the International League, you'd better be showing improvement. I'm not exactly sure what to make of Smith's GB%. It's nice that it's a little higher than Bonser's and Baker's, but it's not much higher--you certainly wouldn't call him a ground ball pitcher--and he's got a higher HR rate despite allowing fewer fly balls than the other two. That's either bad luck or an indication that his stuff isn't as good. Without having seen him, but considering that he's basically a non-prospect, I'd have to guess it's a little more indicative that his stuff isn't very good.
The big difference between Baker, Bonser, and Smith, as far as projecting their numbers to the majors goes, is their age. Guys who are putting up numbers at a younger age tend to transfer their performance better to the major leagues than guys pitching at an older age. It also depends on how many times you have repeated a level, and boy has Smith ever repeated AAA.
I mean, I guess there's some hope that Smith has turned a corner this year and is actually a better pitcher, but more likely we're looking at getting something a little worse than what Bonser has done for us this season, say about 6.0 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.8 HR/9, for a 5.50 to 6.50 ERA. Nothing great, but hopefully something good enough to keep us around in a couple of games if the offense can score some runs. And at this point, with Radke and Liriano both battling injuries, the 5th starter should be starting every time through the rotation. We want Radke and Liriano to pitch as often as possible, but more importantly, we want them to be effective when they are starting.
It's probably worth noting, too, that as far as who the Twins could have chosen to come back up, they couldn't have chosen Scott Baker, as he can't be recalled for something like 10 or 15 days after he was sent down unless someone goes on the DL.