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The Twins' Inconsistency of Calling Up Prospects

The Twins seem to have differing philosophies when it comes to promoting pitchers and position players.

Jonathan Daniel

I don't listen to very many podcasts, but there are two staples that I catch every week. The first is one you may not be familiar with, and that might be since it's based out of California. The Productive Outs podcast, or Prodcast, focuses on all baseball even though co-host Riley Breckinridge is an Angels fan while other co-host Ian Miller is a Giants fan and also a recent convert to the Astros, so Mike Bates is not alone. Plus, Breckinridge was the drummer of one of my favorite bands (no, not Puig Destroyer, I mean his earlier band) which was how I got hooked in the first place. The guys are hilarious, the reader emails are strangely almost always Canadian, and they're always willing to promote up-and-coming bands on their podcast.

The other one is one you likely have heard of, and that's Aaron Gleeman's and John Bonnes' "Gleeman and the Geek." While it's not where I get my Twins news, it's where I often hear good analysis of the various moves the Twins make. For example, Sunday's latest episode included talk about acquiring Jordan Schafer. While some people are turned off by his lack of hitting, Gleeman and Bonnes correctly identified that he's just a 4th or 5th outfielder that will get maybe one or two starts a week and could easily be cut loose at the end of the season.

However, Gleeman had a point that I felt was very good and it relates to the prospects in the minor leagues. We're getting increasingly frustrated that Trevor May and Alex Meyer are still in the minor leagues. There are some reasons for that - May was probably going to be called up at the All-Star break but then got hurt, while Meyer has always had control issues - but it's irritating nonetheless. Meanwhile, we've seen a whole slew of position players make their debuts this year, including Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas, and most shockingly Jorge Polanco, who was called up twice from Single-A.

This trend extends beyond this year, too. Gleeman noted that the Twins aggressively promoted Brian Dozier in 2012 even though he wasn't hitting well at Triple-A. Aaron Hicks was allowed to jump from Double-A to the majors last season. Also, Chris Parmelee and Josmil Pinto used strong September debuts in 2011 and 2013, respectively, to make it onto the Opening Day roster in their following season.

But if you look at the pitchers in recent years, there haven't been as many prospects that have been aggressively promoted. Oh sure, there have been plenty of guys that have made their major league debuts, but the list isn't very inspiring. Liam Hendriks, Scott Diamond, Cole De Vries, Andrew Albers, and Yohan Pino have all debuted with the Twins, but only Hendriks was really considered to be a prospect. Probably the last pitcher to be aggressively promoted was Alex Burnett back in 2010, when he dominated Double-A the prior season and was surprisingly handed a bullpen spot out of spring training. However, Burnett wasn't very good in the majors and he has not played at all this season.

Last year, the Twins were incredibly patient with Kyle Gibson and he did end up struggling after his promotion at the end of June. This season, we're seeing the patience with May and Meyer, but there's another prospect at Rochester that hasn't received as much attention as the new M&M boys. This year, 24-year old reliever Michael Tonkin has put up a 2.62 ERA and is striking out over 9 batters per 9 innings while only walking 2.1 per 9 innings, but his mid-90s fastball has spent most of the season in the minor leagues. Yes, he has pitched in 15 games with the Twins this year and his numbers aren't that great, but the Twins still chose to go with retread Matt Guerrier instead of giving the young Tonkin an extended look. Perhaps I should still tip my cap to the front office though, as they promoted Ryan Pressly to replace Guerrier, and Pressly had definitely earned it with his performance in Triple-A.

The reason I'm making a big deal out of this is related to all the injuries we've seen to pitchers this season. While it seems like we've had an epidemic of torn UCLs and Tommy John surgeries, I feel that we've also been subjected to better diagnoses and overall awareness of the injuries, just like concussions. It almost seems unusual to find a pitcher now that hasn't had Tommy John surgery, so it appears as though all pitchers are a time bomb waiting to go off. Many pitchers have a limited number of innings in them before their arm explodes, so why not use those innings in the majors where it will most benefit the team?

Instead, the Twins are choosing to have their young hurlers use up their bullets in the minor leagues. To us fans, it looks like May and Meyer are ready, so why not give them a shot in a lost season instead of giving starts to non-prospects or other starters that don't have a future with the Twins?

The M&M boys will be called up eventually this season. I just wish that the Twins would start showing some consistency themselves when it's between calling up pitchers and position players.