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Twins 2017 MLB Draft Preview: Pitching Depth

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With the MLB draft quickly approaching, we look at the depth of pitching in the Twins system.

Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Pitching depth is both incredibly important but also hard to judge. You can generally tell if a pitcher has the stuff and makeup to become a front line starter, but even the best can fall of the radar or turn into relievers. Because of this, it is important for teams to accumulate as much pitching depth as possible.

The Twins will undoubtedly add to their pitching depth during this year’s MLB draft, perhaps even using their first overall pick by adding a starter with front line potential. But before they do so, let’s look at who the Twins currently have in their system in order to judge where we need help the most.

A note before the rankings: judging pitching is incredibly difficult, especially with the Twins in a spot where they currently shuffle Quadruple-A quality pitchers back and forth. I will have ranked a few of these pitchers, but there are a handful at Triple-A Rochester that I won’t rank simply because I don’t think they will be above-replacement level players. There are also some projections here that are my own opinion and not necessarily industry-wide ideas, which I will highlight when I can.

Front End Starters

Pitcher
Pitcher
Ervin Santana (MLB)
Jose Berrios (MLB)
Fernando Romero (AA)
Trevor May (MLB, 60 Day DL)
Lewis Thorpe (High A)

The Twins’ list of potential number one or two starts is... very thin. This is not news, but it is pretty striking when laid out. Lewis Thorpe is a bit of a stretch here even, considering we do not know the sort of pitcher he will be after Tommy John surgery. I think Trevor May has the mix and makeup to be a number 2 starter, but it will be a while after his surgery this past spring. When debating between Kyle Wright and Brendan McKay for the first overall pick, the shortness of this list may very well influence some decisions.

Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, and Fernando Romero seem like more clear front-line type guys.

Mid Rotation Pitchers

Pitcher
Pitcher
Hector Santiago (MLB)
Adelberto Mejia (MLB)
Stephen Gonzalves (AA)
Tyler Wells (Low A)
Tyler Jay (AA, Reliever for now)

These pitchers I consider to be number three starters that can rank up or down a spot based on performance. I am actually overrating Adalberto Mejia a bit here, as I see him a solid number four, but he has the strikeout capability to be a mid-rotation guy. Tyler Wells is another pitcher that may be overrated, but he has been dominating when healthy this year. Another short list here as well. The Wright vs. McKay battle takes a different turn if the front office thinks McKay has a better chance of reaching his potential than Wright, since the team also needs mid-rotation pieces as well.

Back End Starters

Pitcher
Pitcher
Kyle Gibson (MLB)
Phil Hughes (MLB)
Aaron Slegers (AAA)
Felix Jorge (AA)
Kohl Stewart (AA)
Dereck Rodriguez (High A)
Lachlen Wells (High A)
Eduardo Del Rosario (Low A)
Griffin Jax (Rookie)

Finally a list with some depth, but it is not the most exciting list out there. I do value Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes as legitimate big-league pitchers here, more because of necessity than actual ability. There are some players who can work their way up in Aaron Slegers and Felix Jorge, but they both need to show a bit more at their current levels. You never draft a back end starter, but you always end up with some thanks to regression, like Kohl Stewart, who could still show he is a mid-rotation guy in the future.

High Leverage Relievers

Pitcher
Pitcher
Tyler Duffey (MLB)
Taylor Rogers (MLB)
Ryan Pressley (AAA)
JT Chargois (AAA)
Trevor Hildenburger (AAA)
Randy Rosario (AAA)
Alan Busenitz (AAA)
Mason Melotakis (AA)
Nick Burdi (AA, 60 Day DL)
Tyler Jay (AA)
Jake Reed (AA)

The Twins are actually well stocked with high leverage relievers in the minors, they just need them to come up and prove it at the major league level. People have asked why there has been such an odd carousel of replacement level pitchers coming up and down instead of these potentially high quality minor league arms. I think part of it has to do with development, as minor leaguers are less accustomed to pitching every day like relievers in the major leagues. I also think they would rather overuse a replacement level arm and send them down instead of giving that physical and mental abuse to players they actually want to succeed.

Replacement Level Pitchers

Pitcher
Pitcher
Brandon Kintzler (MLB)
Matt Belisle (MLB)
Craig Breslow (MLB)
Buddy Boshers (MLB)
Alex Wimmers (MLB)
Chris Heston (MLB)
Nick Turley (MLB)
Michael Tonkin (AAA)
Adam Wilk (AAA)
David Hurlbut (AAA)
D.J. Baxendale (AA)

The longest list by far, every team needs a number of these pitchers every year. I have Brandon Kintzler listed here because I feel the Twins will trade him at the first opportunity; he simply is not good enough to build around. Pitchers like Alex Wimmers, Buddy Boshers, Nik Turley, and others could prove to be better than this, in a sort of limbo between high leverage relievers and replacement level players, but there is still a lot to prove.

Thoughts

Drafting Hunter Greene or Kyle Wright instantly adds to the list of front end starters, while Brendan McKay provides a quality mid rotation starter type. While many fans want Wright because of his ceiling, you should trust that whoever the Twins take is the player that the front office feels has the best chance of hitting their potential. With such little depth for top 3 starters, the Twins need whoever will actually fulfill their expected role. Also look for solid pickups with the 35th and 37th picks that can fill these roles. Blayne Enlow is the player who I personally hopes falls to the 35th pick, although most of us here likely hope Sam Carlson is able to fall that far as well #oneofus.

The Twins are said to be eyeing to take a pitcher with roughly half of their draft picks, and so there will be plenty of depth added to these lists soon enough. Is there anyone on the current list you feel fits a different ranking? Anyone we missed that you have been keeping track on?