Looking at the Minnesota Twins performance the past few seasons, it is clear that the starting pitching has been a major factor in the team's performance. With the Twins adding Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco to the rotation in 2014 as well as Ervin Santana in 2015, the Twins have definitely strengthened the rotation. In 2014, Twins fans were shown another starter who can be an important piece of the starting rotation in 2015 and beyond. In my eyes, Kyle Gibson's continued improvement points to 2015 being a breakout year for Gibson and if this is the case he will be the pitching X-factor for the Twins this season.
Hughes and Santana should be solid starters in the rotation in 2015 with Hughes winning 16-18 games and Santana winning 15-17 games. Nolasco will definitely be improved in 2015 as he has never had back to back seasons with less then double digit wins so we should see Ricky winning 12-14 games in 2015. This brings us to Kyle Gibson and why I think that he is a huge factor in what the Twins accomplish in 2015. Gibson had a solid season in 2014 as his first full season as a starter after starting ten games in 2013.
When you look at Gibson's 2014 season, it was a good first full season for a number four starter as Kyle went 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA but I also like some of Gibson's other numbers including the 179.1 innings pitched, a 1.31 WHIP, and averaging 5.4 strikeouts per nine innings. As Kyle showed from 2013 to 2014, he has improved in most if not all major pitching statistical categories including ERA, BB/SO ratio, FIP, WHIP, H9, HR9, and SO9. In seeing this continued performance, along with the fact that the Twins should be better defensively in 2015 points to good things for Gibson.
The reason that I label Gibson as the X-factor for the pitching staff in 2015 is that we know what Hughes, Santana, and Nolasco should bring to the rotation which would be 45-50 wins. In my projections, if Gibson makes the jump that the Twins believe he will and that I project he will, this could be the difference between the Twins being a sub .500 team or a team that breaks the .500 barrier for the first time in five seasons. I am projecting that Gibson will win 15-16 games in 2015 with an ERA right around 4.00. If Kyle makes this leap and continues to improve on the BB/SO ratio and WHIP, I strongly believe this will be the push the Twins need to rebound back into relevance in 2015. It may not make them a playoff team in 2015 but getting the team back to .500 would be a gigantic leap for this team and would set them up for a possible playoff run in 2016.
In closing, I see Gibson as the X-factor because we have a pretty good understanding of what Hughes, Santana, and Nolasco will do along with the bullpen as the changes there aren't drastic enough to change the performance expected of them in 2015. If Gibson makes the projected jump that I see in him in 2015, I consider him to be the X-factor for the Twins as the fifth starter position could still be in flux during the season and Gibson's stability and improvement could really be what helps jump start the Twins rotation and team in 2015.
What do our Twinkie Town readers think? Is Kyle Gibson the Minnesota Twins pitching X-factor in 2015? If not, we would like to have you comment below as to who you think will be the Twins pitching X-factor in 2015. Please also take a moment to vote in the poll as another way to give us your feedback. Next week, with the season start upon us we will ask Twins fans to choose which young player on the 25 man roster excites them the most to start the 2015 season. Until next week, thanks for reading!