The readers of Twinkie Town believe that last summer's problems were a hiccup in Alex Wimmers journey to the Twins starting rotation as you selected him our preseason Pitcher of the Year. Wimmers collected 65 of 215 votes (30%). Liam Hendriks was a distant second with 38 votes with Adrian Salcedo third (20). Perhaps many of you see Hendriks spending little time in the minors this year.
This week we will select the pitcher we see as being the Twins top relief pitcher this season. I will briefly discuss each candidate, then on to the voting.With over thirty pitchers with the Twins in spring training, it is difficult anticipating who will be in the Red Wing bullpen on opening day. There are several pitchers however, who should be in the hunt as the organization's best reliever whether they are at Rochester or New Britain. They include Cole DeVries, Carlos Gutierrez, Lester Oliveros and Tyler Robertson. DeVries was the organization's Pitcher of the Month at New Britain last April before moving on to AAA where he posted a 4-2 record with a 3.90 ERA. He continued pitching well in the AFL where he was 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA. Gutierrez is getting a good look by the Twins this spring as his mid-90's sinker could be very effective in the seventh inning. Gutierrez battled several injuries last season as he put up a 4.62 ERA in 43 appearances. Oliveros could be that hard thrower the Twins continue to look for. Oliveros had a 0.53 ERA in 17 innings at Erie with 28 strikeouts and only 4 walks before moving up to AAA. Robertson may have been the organization's top reliever the second half of last year. In his first season as a reliever, Robertson posted a 5-0 record with a 2.29 ERA in 35.1 innings with seven saves and 41 strikeouts after the all-star break.
Deolis Guerra had an ugly beginning to his 2011 season as he took the mound every fifth game. After a couple months with a double digit ERA he was moved to the bullpen where he was as good as anyone in the organization. Andrew Albers signed with the Twins last spring, then went on to pitch better than they could have imagined. He posted a 1.55 ERA with a 4-1 record in 52.1 innings at Fort Myers before moving on to New Britain where he had an identical 4-1 record with a 2.91 ERA in 43.1 innings. Tony Davis was solid in the Rock Cats bullpen where he posted a 2.57 ERA in 28.0 innings. Dakota Watts is a hard throwing Californian who couldn't duplicate his excellent 2010 performance at Fort Myers and New Britain last year. If he can cut down on his walks (33 in 65.2 innings), he could have a future with the Twins. When you talk about Watts, you also have to mention Bruce Pugh. Pugh is another hard thrower who the Twins want to see throw more strikes. Like Watts, Pugh struggled at AA where he walked 16 batters in 18.1 innings.
Matt Hauser had a combined 0.57 ERA at Elizabethton and Beloit after being drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. He didn't disappoint last year, posting a 3-0 record with a 1.40 ERA in 19.1 innings at Beloit with 27 strikeouts. He moved on to Fort Myers where he had a 2-6 record with a 2.16 ERA in 41.2 innings with 44 strikeouts. He then made one appearance with New Britain where he allowed one run in 2.2 innings with four strikeouts. A combined 1.98 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 63.2 innings caused many scouts and fans to take notice.
Will Ryan O'Rourke return to the bullpen at Fort Myers this spring? If he does, count him amongst a group of sometime starters who could flourish. Last season at Beloit, O'Rourke had a 1.85 ERA in 17 games (24.2 innings) as a reliever. All Jose Gonzalez does every year is get outs. After posting a 1.42 with the GCL Twins in 2009 and a combined 0.72 ERA at Elizabethton and Fort Myers in 2010, he posted a 2.47 ERA with a 5-2 record and thirteen saves at Beloit where the crafty lefty struck out 63 batters in 62.0 innings.
Bart Carter posted a 1.42 ERA at Elizabethton before moving up to Beloit where he had a 3.12 ERA in eighteen appearances. Last year's fourth round pick, Matt Summers, had a 0.87 ERA in twenty games at Elizabethton. In 20.2 innings, Summers struck out 36 batters while walking only five. Corey Williams, who is last year's third round pick with amazing stuff, posted a 3.86 ERA in seven appearances with Elizabethton. Williams may be a starter at Beloit, however, if he stays in the bullpen he could be special.
The smart pick today may be 'other' as there is a large group of young starters who will be in the bullpens at Beloit and Fort Myers who could surprise everyone this season. There also are several highly respected relievers who are coming off injuries. Players like Ben Tootle or Dallas Gallant could become the star of the bullpens at Beloit or Fort Myers, if they can remain healthy.