It's no surprise that the top 15 or 20 prospects of the 2015 draft class includes a good number of starting pitchers. This year's crop is headed by names like Dillon Tate, Jon Harris, Kyle Funkhouser (who gets credit for a cool last name), and Carson Fulmer. Brady Aiken, you'll notice, is conspicuously absent. Somebody will probably try to take a risk on him, but after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late March is ETA for 2016 is questionable.
Since 2008, the Twins have had 14 picks between the first and supplemental first rounds. Nine of them have been pitchers (just one lefty), but as of today only Kyle Gibson has made his Major League debut. A number of others (Shooter Hunt, Carlos Gutierrez, Matt Bashore, Alex Wimmers, Hudson Boyd) have their baseball futures in doubt, if they're not out of the game already. Luke Bard, Jose Berrios, and Kohl Stewart, the three most recent pitchers taken, all look like pretty good picks in comparison.
As we did last year, we'll go through the 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 in regards to arms for the rotation, and of course we'll notice if there are gaps in the system, too. 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 charts, we'll be hitting most of each roster's primary starting pitchers.
Minnesota Twins (MLB)
This group looks better than it did last year. It's not a terrible group, even if there's not a great deal of velocity or swing-and-miss stuff. Hughes, Gibson, and May look like they're poised to lead this rotation over the next couple of years. Pelfrey is a free agent after the season. Nolasco and Santana have long contract with a lot of money tied into them, and they both have a lot of work to do if they're going to make their deals palatable.
The biggest issue for Minnesota's rotation is the quality of pitcher, however. It's how the front office will find a way to make room for talented arms that will need Major League innings sooner rather than later. Those arms are already in abundance at Triple-A.
Rochester Red Wings (AAA)
A group that's clearly headlined by one of the game's best right-handed pitching prospects who, in spite of struggling with command and efficiency, remains the starting pitcher with the best stuff between Triple-A and the Major League rotations. There's also a chance I'm being a bit bullish on Rogers' future with his B- grade, but he just continues to deliver. It's hard to argue with results.
This is a very good Triple-A rotation. Right now it includes one pitcher who might be a fifth starter on many teams (Milone), and four pitchers who could - in many years - be vying for a call up this year. Simply because of the number of pitchers looking to get onto the Minnesota staff (and how difficult that will be in the first instance), and the situation on the 40-man roster, I've pushed back the ETAs of Rogers, Wheeler, and Dean. This could change, of course, if at any point the Twins trim some of the fat from the 21 pitchers currently on the eligible roster.
Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)
Is this group more talented than the group above it? Certainly Berrios and Duffey look like they're ready to move to Triple-A at any time. Baxendale is off to a fantastic start even though it has been a while since his prospect arrow was pointing up. Peavey looks like filler. Wimmers, a first-round draft pick he may be, is struggling early after a nice return late in 2014.
Still, it should be noted that both of the top levels of the Twins system have no fewer than two starting pitchers who look like they could be able to contribute to the Major League pitching staff in the near future. There are a lot of difficult decisions coming for the organization on this front, and it's not made any easier by looking at the group below.
Fort Myers Miracle (A+)
Once again, the top of this rotation is impressive. The remainder of the group is either getting a little old for the level considering their past performance, although Slegers could separate himself from the rest of the group if he continues to pitch well.
If there's anything holding this group back, it's Stewart's health and Hu's age and stuff. Hu's stuff is considered to be average, even if he does have an advanced feel for his pitches. Much like Duffey and Rogers above him it's very difficult to argue with results, and it's also worth mentioning that Berrios is also a pitcher whose stuff hasn't always qualified as electric with scouts. Another great year from Hu and we'll be hearing a lot more from him.
This grouping is made all the more impressive because of the absence of Fernando Romero and Lewis Thorpe, who are at different points following Tommy John surgeries. A healthy Romero is a Top 20 prospect in the organization, and a healthy Thorpe is a borderline Top 100 prospect in baseball.
Cedar Rapids Kernels (A)
It's incredible to see the system's pitching talent illustrated in this fashion. Gonsalves and Jorge have their own things holding them back (allegedly mediocre stuff for Gonsalves, a bad year at Cedar Rapids in 2014 for Jorge), but right now they're both lighting things up. Gonsalves, like Hu, has the potential to rocket up not just Twins prospect lists but prospect lists around the league for 2016.
Cederoth is interesting, because he projects as a reliever. Batts and Curtiss are also interesting pitchers, but their prospect status (and their current results) will be put to the test when they're promoted to Fort Myers - which should hopefully happen this year.
Best of the rest: Lewis Thorpe, Fernando Romero, Luke Bard, Huascar Ynoa
Velocity. Stuff. Strikeouts. The Twins farm system has virtually everything you might want from a pitcher, except one player who looks and breathes and smells like a bona fide ace. You'll hear arguments for Meyer and Berrios and Stewart and, in smaller circles, perhaps Hu or Gonsalves, but right now it's hard to give any of them the benefit of a potential future matching up with a David Price.
Regardless, there's a lot of good news here. There are plenty of arms that look at least serviceable (Rogers, Duffey), and better yet there are a half dozen arms that - right now - have the potential to be an above average starter: Meyer, Berrios, Stuart, Hu, Gonsalves, Jorge, and the injured Thorpe. Should one or two of the falter in the short term, it's okay because this level of talent is represented at each of Minnesota's four primary affiliates.
Should the Twins draft a pitcher, a collegiate selection could start the year as high as Fort Myers (if it's the right guy). That wouldn't be an issue. It wouldn't force the Twins to do anything that the players aren't ready to do. A prep arm, a la Stewart, would probably put in his 2015 innings at Elizabethton.
The state of the farm system, as far as starting pitching prospects go, is very strong. Adding another pitcher from the top of the draft would only make the arms race more impressive, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Top right-handed pitching prospect: Jose Berrios (Runner-Up: Alex Meyer)
Top left-handed pitching prospect: Lewis Thorpe (Runner-Up: Stephen Gonsalves)