One of the many problems that the new Twins front office will be trying to solve in the coming years is the pitching. I think you’ll agree, but I brought some stats to back this up.
These numbers include every pitcher on the team, but when you consider that every starter other than Ervin Santana had an ERA over 5, that isn’t much consolation.
Here is who I think are the candidates to be in the starting rotation in 2017.
1. Ervin Santana
You could do some swapping around with the 2-5 slots, but Ervin is pretty clearly the best candidate for “staff ace” this year. With an ERA of 3.38 and an ERA+ of 124, Santana had one of his best seasons last year.
He’s going into his age 34 season, so a decline is coming, it’s just a matter of when and how steep.
2. Kyle Gibson
Gibson struggled in 2016, giving up a ton of base runners for a WHIP of 1.56. That led to a bloated 5.07 ERA. This was surprising to me, since his 2015 numbers indicated he was on track to be a solid #3 starter.
His FIP was a bit better at 4.70, which suggests his defense let him down some as a ground ball pitcher. Speaking of that, his ground ball rate was down by 5% (from 53% to 48%), and his fly ball and line drive rate went up, which may be part of the reason he struggled.
3. Hector Santiago
This is the guy we got from the Angels for Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer. Those two are doing fine there so far, I guess. Nolasco started 11 games with an ERA of 3.21, expect regression.
Santiago struggled, posting a 5.58 ERA with the Twins, compared to 4.25 with LAA. For what it's worth, Hector was an All Star in 2015, with a solid 3.59 ERA, and decent strikeout numbers in the past.
I expect him to do better next year, but I’m not sure by how much.
4. Phil Hughes
Phil is coming back from a fractured fibula and rib-removal surgery. He really wasn’t effective at all last year, with an ERA 5.95 (5.08 FIP) in 59 innings of work.
The Twins hope he can recover and be more like the pitcher we saw in 2014, when he broke the SO/W record (11.63). I personally doubt we see that happen, especially going into his age 31 season. I still think he can be a decent enough pitcher for the back end of the rotation.
5. Jose Berrios
It’s expected that prospects will struggle at first when they first get the call to the majors. What I did not expect was Jose Berrios posting an ERA of 8.02.
He walked a ton of people (5.4 BB/9), and gave up way too many hits for a 1.8 WHIP; a recipe for disaster. In 190 innings at AAA in his career he had given up just 14 home runs, but in just 58 innings he allowed 12 of them on the Twins.
I think what the Twins should do with Berrios is put him in the rotation. The reason I say this and not “send him down” is that he’s proven he can get AAA batters out. He needs to experience major league hitters.
I think he’s got the potential to be a #1 or #2 starter, he just needs to get over the hump.
In the running:
A couple years ago the Twins moved May from the starting rotation to add depth to the bullpen. This was supposed to be temporary but it ended up turning into a full time deal. I think it’s time to move him back, as he’s better suited to be a starter than a reliever.
Mejia is a guy who can strike people out, at least in AAA (8.8 K/9). He’ll probably start the year in Rochester, and could see a promotion if he performs well (or someone else doesn’t).
Duffey surprised a lot of people in 2015. In 10 starts he tossed 58 innings with an ERA of just 3.10. However, in 26 starts last year Duffey managed a 6.43 ERA. So what happened? Well he gave up way more home runs and hits, when you do that you’re gonna give up a lot of runs.
Still, the rotation is bad enough that Duffey could work his way into it.
So... What do we do?
Well, there’s not a lot of attractive options on the free agent market for starting pitching. We could trade for one, but in the position the Twins are at, that starter would be another prospect. Brisbee has a good article about some options we could look at; give me one of the “young, good, and affordable” (my rejected soap opera concept), please.
Failing that, basically the Twins need to hope that some of these in-house options surprise us.