In a move straight out of a future Disney family-friendly sports film, the Twins have signed 24-year old undrafted free agent Brandon Poulson. They're giving him $250,000. So, who is this guy?
Poulson, a right-hander capable of reaching 100mph on his fastball, spent the 2014 season playing for San Francisco's Academy of Art University. He appeared in 14 games, striking out 24 in 19.1 innings but also walking 24. He did only allow ten hits. As best as I can work out, opponents hit .159/.417/.254 off of him.
Suffice it to say that Poulson has a real issue with command, but he also has a natural gift with his arm. The command issue could be chalked up, at least in part, to the fact that he spent the last couple of years off to work for his father's company. So he was probably a little out of practice when he picked up the ball again. As for the arm? According to Twins scout Elliott Strankman, Poulson has "the best pure arm strength I've ever seen."
This summer, in a collegiate summer league, Poulson finished third in the league in ERA (1.46) while striking out 31 in 12.1 innings. Batters hit just .140, but once again command was an issue - 15 walks led to a 1.75 WHIP. He was last on the Prune Packers with just 59% of his first pitches going for strikes, and wild pitches are to be expected.
Even knowing that...it's the arm that draws scouts in. It wasn't just Minnesota who was trailing Poulson, as the Giants, Athletics, Mariners, and Phillies all wanted him for their own. But the Twins came in under budget after the 2014 draft, and had enough left to convince him that the Twins organization was where he should be.
Can he make it as a professional pitcher? Maybe. The Twins are clearly excited by the talent, but they're also aware that Poulson is 24 and is about to get his first taste of professional baseball. A 100-mph fastball can do wonders in college, but announcing one's presence with authority can only take a pitcher so far.
There's no doubt that this is a great find by the Twins and a chance well taken. Here's wishing for all the best to Poulson, and who knows - in a year or two, we could see him making appearances in Target Field. That's certainly the hope.