With Craig Breslow getting claimed off waivers by Oakland, Minnesota's latest pitching prospect gets his shot.
Minnesota's second-round choice in the 2004 draft, Anthony Swarzak has had a steady climb through the farm system. Rookie ball in '04, Beloit and Fort Myers in '05, New Britain in '07 and a late promotion to triple-A Rochester last year. Now, after seven encouraging starts there this season, he's picking a uniform number for the Twins.
Glen Perkins and Matt Tolbert are the only two other players from that draft to breach the majors so far for the Twins. Other pitchers from that draft class, like Matt Fox, Jay Rainville and Kyle Waldrop haven't moved quite as quickly or been quite as good as Anthony; Rainville and Fox have each missed entire seasons and are now both in New Britain, while Waldrop was there last year but took a step backward and is struggling in Fort Myers this season. It was a promising class early, a class that also included Eduardo Morlan and Tim Lahey, but Perkins and Swarzak are the only two appearing to reach their potential on schedule.
Anthony, 24, will get a couple days to take in the atmosphere before getting his first major league start against the Brewers on Saturday. If you're in Minneapolis, be sure to get out there and show your support.
There's a lot to like with Swarzak, and Baseball America (who have ranked him a Top 10 Twins prospect every season since '05) agrees. Walk rates are on the positive side of average, walking just 2.8 batters per nine innings over the course of his minor league career. The strikeout rates aren't over the top, but the ability is there; 7.9 K/9, although that's a bit higher than his 6.5 rate in Rochester this year. Balls stay in the park (just 42 home runs in 636.2 innings).
Back in 2007 Swarzak served a 50-game suspension for a "drug of abuse", but since then has re-focused Some have speculated that the drug of abuse was marijuana; as disappointing as that can be, it's not exactly a performance-enhancing drug. I'm not encouraging it, but it's supposed to impair judgment. So, it's not cheating. It's just...bad judgment.
With all that behind him and his MLB future ahead of him, there will be a lot of people watching Swarzak's progress this summer with great interest. Right now he has to be the pitcher with the most upside coming from the '04 draft class, and right now, the Twins pitching staff could use a little upside.