Happy Memorial Day, folks. Enjoy your day off and be safe, but be sure to take a moment to remember why today is a national holiday in the first place.
Our man-on-the-ground in Fort Myers, Bob Sacamento, is known around these parts for his reports submitted from spring training. This weekend he happened to be visiting the Miracle at the same time as Terry Ryan, and the two spoke on a couple of topics. Of most interest: Stephen Gonsalves and Chih-Wei Hu.
This isn't much of a surprise and jives with Keith Law's belief that Hu's numbers are ahead of his stuff. At just 21, Hu's number have stood out in comparison with more high-profile pitching prospects. In six starts for the Miracle he owns a 1.03 ERA in 35 innings, including 36 strikeouts, six walks, and just one home run. He even made a spot start for Triple-A Rochester this week, giving the Red Wings six innings of one-run baseball. Hu allowed two hits and struck out six, but did walk four. Still, it was a pretty good performance.
There's some ambiguity in how long "longer than most Twins fans want" really is. If Hu earns a promotion to the Double-A rotation later this summer, as far as I'm concerned that's a fair pace because it puts Hu within shouting distance of the Twins in 2016 and puts him on pace for a legitimate big league debut by the time he's 23 in 2017.
Looking up one level, Double-A Chattanooga's rotation currently features Jose Berrios, D.J. Baxendale, Greg Peavey, and Alex Wimmers. With Tyler Duffey's appointment to Triple-A, David Hurlbutt made a start for the Lookouts in May 22. Whether Hurlbutt's rotation spot is secure or not, both Peavey (6.32 ERA in 47 innings) and Wimmers (5.82 ERA in 34 innings) have really struggled this year. If the Twins want to open up a spot in the Double-A rotation, they can find the space.
Two things here. First, it can't be much of a surprise that the Twins are considering promoting Stephen Gonsalves after posting a 1.50 ERA through 42 innings with 54 strikeouts. Scouts have said similar things about Gonsalves as they have Hu (the numbers are ahead of the stuff, or that the stuff may not play at higher levels), but at some point you need to see the results and just give the guy a shot at the next level.
Second, I asked Sacamento for clarification and he responded by saying he doesn't "know how soon 'soon' is," which is to be expected. There's a level of ambiguity here as well. Based off the tenor of the conversation it doesn't sound like Gonsalves' promotion is predicated on Hu's, however. The trouble is that it's harder to see a rotation spot for a Gonsalves promotion than it is one for Hu: looking up to Fort Myers, their rotation consists of Aaron Slegers, Ryan Eades, Kohl Stewart, Brett Lee, Ethan Mildren, and Hu. And sometimes Luke Westphal. Mildren and Westphal haven't been great out of the rotation, but that still leaves five guys who have been.
If your team is having trouble finding room to promote a 20-year old starter with a 1.50 ERA, your organization might be stacked. The problem is that there isn't much give in any direction. If you want to make room in Fort Myers, you probably need to promote someone from Fort Myers to Chattanooga, which means promoting from Chattanooga to Rochester, which probably means promoting from Rochester to Minnesota.
We've already mentioned how full the rotations are in both Fort Myers and Chattanooga. It doesn't get any easier in Rochester, where Taylor Rogers, Pat Dean, Tommy Milone, Jason Wheeler and the newly promoted Tyler Duffey are taking up residence. Wheeler (5.70 ERA in 47.1 innings) hasn't been particularly effective, but he's also too good to be sent back to Double-A. And none of this brings up the issue of Alex Meyer and what happens if (or when) he's ready to go back to being a starter.
In two or three weeks, extended spring training will come to an end, and that's going to put even more pressure on the organization because there are plenty of guys there who will be looking for jobs who are either too good or too old to spend a lot of time in a rookie league.
There are two options available to the Twins. They can jettison roster chaff from the 40-man, of which there is plenty - even though it would require some difficult decisions and would likely put a lot of young players in a position where they'd be required to do a lot of the heavy lifting in the very near future. Otherwise, the Twins can start to package some of this depth and exchange it for talent in the form of a single player. That would be its own challenge, but if Minnesota wants to do something interesting in June or July that might be the best way to get what they want.
A roster crunch is coming. We're already experiencing a certain level of it on the Major League team as the club jostles its outfielders and relievers in an effort to find the best mix possible, but the more interesting competition - and the one with longer term implications for the success of the organization - will be taking place down on the farm over the next few weeks.