There are a lot of pitchers who will be taken at the top of the 2014 MLB Draft. Carlos Rodon, Brady Aiken, and Tyler Kolek are, by the accounts of most mock drafts, off the board by the time we get to the Twins at number five, but that's only the start of it all. We know the Twins are intrigued by a number of pitchers beyond the Big Three, and draft history suggests the Twins will lean towards pitching anyway.
Since 2009, seven of Minnesota's ten first-round selections (including the supplemental first round) have been pitchers. If we go all the way back to 2000, pitchers were 16 out of the 27 players taken (60%).
So let's take a look through the farm system to see how a first-round pitcher might fit into the organization's scheme. We'll get a sense of how strong the system is on the whole for starting pitchers, and see where the gaps are as well. Just a couple of notes before we get started.
- Players on the MLB roster will be noted for their years of team control remaining (the year listed is their final year under team control); minor league players will be given an ETA.
- The grade is my best approximation of the player's current and future value.
- Unlike the position player depth chart, we'll be hitting most of each roster's primary starting pitchers.
Minnesota Twins (MLB)
In terms of talent, it's not a terrible group of pitchers. The issues are that 1) Nolasco isn't pitching to his potential and is under contract for three more years, and 2) there are enough multi-year contracts that the Twins will have to eat money if they want to truly give any of their younger arms an opportunity over the next year.
As a trio, Nolasco, Gibson and Hughes are fine. But none of them are a staff ace or have the ability to be the long-term front-of-the-rotation arm that the team has missed since Francisco Liriano in 2010. (Or, if you prefer, Johan Santana in 2007. You're not wrong either way.)
Right now, the best thing that can happen is for Nolasco to start pitching better and for the Twins to be bold when it comes time to promote Trevor May and Alex Meyer.
Rochester Red Wings (AAA)
All of these guys are capable of being called up this season; or perhaps it's better to say that none of them have so much room left to grow that they should be kept in Triple-A for their own development. Having said that, Meyer and May are the only two who should be considered for anything other than a spot start or two. Everyone else on this list falls into the stop-gap or MLB reliever category.
It's a very good group for a Triple-A rotation. It's one of the reasons the Red Wings pitching staff has been doing so well this year, to the pleasure of fans across Rochester.
New Britain Rock Cats (AA)
Once again, this group has more arms leaning towards finishing development. But it doesn't have a Meyer or a May in there, either. The most potential in this group looks like it belongs to Rogers, while arms like Gilmartin and Baxendale certainly look like they'd be able to competently fill in for the Twins at some point down the line.
Fort Myers Miracle (A+)
This group, apart from Berrios, is a veteran crew that is largely older than the batters they face. Some of them have been in the system for a few years. Some of them are pitching well, but not good enough to give them any kind of prospect status. It's perhaps worth seeing if Lee can get to Double-A and then see how he performs, but really for the Miracle the only pitcher truly worth watching is Berrios.
Cedar Rapids Kernels (A)
There's more potential upside with the Kernels, but when you look at the guys who you'd hope to see that translate into performance (Eades, Jorge, Slegers, maybe even Mildren) it hasn't been happening this year. It's early days for all of these guys, but in addition to Stewart it's probably worth clocking Eades and Jorge for the next year or two for sure. I'll be interested to see how Slegers adapts as the year goes on, too.
Best of the Rest: Luke Bard, J.T. Chargois, Stephen Gonsalves, Chih-Wei Hu, Jorge Parra, Johan Quezada, Fernando Romero, Lewis Thorpe
These guys are all on shortened seasons and have yet to pitch. We'll re-visit all of these guys later in the summer.
The rest of baseball, and that includes writers for the major outlets, have just started to realize in the last year or so that the Twins have actually made a concerted effort to change their philosophy surrounding the pitchers they go after. The days of focusing on throwing strikes is partnered with the desire to find swing-and-miss ability, and that's paying off with guys at multiple levels: Meyer and May in Triple-A, Berrios in High-A, Stewart in Regular-A, and a handful of guys in the lower minors. It's been a focus not just in the draft, but in the international market.
It looks like that at some point between late this summer and perhaps mid-2017, the Twins are going to be needing to find places for their top pitching prospects. And it's not a wave like we saw in the mid-2000s, with Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Boof Bonser. Instead, the Twins are looking at a couple of guys with ace potential, and a couple more who are solid number two or number three types. Yes, it's too early to get too excited, but there's no doubt that this farm system has some solid pitching talent.
Could they do with another pitcher who would be a Top 10 prospect in the organization going into next year? Absolutely. You can never get enough. Going with a guy like Aaron Nola would lump him in with the other pitchers who are due to arrive by 2017, and even if Tyler Kolek falls to Minnesota it would be surprising if he was too far behind that crew.
While the Major League club has its own issues to deal with, in terms of what to do with pitchers on multi-year contracts while trying to find space for a pair of promising arms, the system would look even more impressive next spring with the addition of another pitcher.
Top RIght-Handed Pitching Prospect: Alex Meyer (Runner-Up: Kohl Stewart)
Top Left-Handed Pitching Prospect: Lewis Thorpe (Runner-Up: Stephen Gonsalves)