Minnesota Twins Should Draft Mark Appel and Revamp Starting Rotation

Popularity of the MLB draft is still in the growth stage, but there has been plenty of buzz surrounding the upcoming 2012 edition.  Much of the attention has rightfully been directed toward prep outfielder Byron Buxton and Stanford RHP Mark Appel.  Byron Buxton is the favorite for the No. 1 selection, but for the Minnesota Twins, Mark Appel is a guy that could spark a change in the franchise’s culture when it comes to starting pitching.

For as long as I’ve been a baseball fanatic (1995 was the beginning and it has only intensified since), the Twins have been about pitching, fundamentals and defense.  They’ve had some brutal seasons, but they’ve mixed in a few playoff appearances as well.  I think it is time for them to reevaluate how they develop starting pitchers though and drafting Mark Appel is a nice start.

Twins’ pitching coach Rick Anderson has a simple philosophy: throw strikes, pitch to contact and let the defense work.  Perhaps it’s no surprise that Anderson and Francisco Liriano butted heads.  While most of the remaining 29 teams strive for a rotation that includes five Stephen Strasburg or CC Sabathia types, my impression of the Minnesota Twins is that they would prefer five Brad Radkes (obviously the.  The problem is that Nick Blackburn (8.37 ERA in 2012), Carl Pavano (5.14 ERA in 2012) and the growing list of “pitch-to-contact” clones are not Brad Radke.  And more importantly, “pitching and defense” teams with a pitch-to-contact starting rotation don’t typically excel in the playoffs.  Since 2000, only three teams with a staff K/9 in the bottom half of the league went on to win the World Series.

I know there are people of the opinion that strikeouts are overrated, but I have to disagree – especially in October. The chances of an opponent reaching base on a strikeout are an eyelash from zero.  The same can’t be said for when the ball is put into play.  Look at the San Francisco Giants.  They barely had enough offense to hit their way out of the National League West in 2010, yet they rode a staff that averaged 8.2 K/9 all the way to a World Series title.

By drafting a guy like Mark Appel on June 4th (and not trying to turn him into the next Carl Pavano), the Minnesota Twins could potentially build a top-of-the-rotation that includes two power right-handers – Appel and a healthy Kyle Gibson - and is capable of presenting a stiffer challenge to the New York Yankees in the ALDS.

Whether you agree or disagree with my thoughts on Mark Appel and the Twinkies, feel free to find me on twitter @craigmwilliams and discuss.

Around the Web

  • MinnesotaMatt

    What people forget when they think of K/9 pitchers vs. contact is that they are great for the long haul and the marathon that is the regular season, not for the sprint in October. When the playoffs hit, players have more adrenaline, more nerves and fewer chances to “come back” or “get em next time.” That K/9 (assuming he is solid and can do it repeatedly) is necessary for at least your top 2-3 pitchers if you want to be a relevant team in today’s MLB. I’ve been ranting and raving about the Twins selection of pitchers for many years now. They have got to change the culture! Good article!

    • Craig Williams

      Thanks Matt, I appreciate it.

      You make a good point. Over the course of the regular season, it’s not really a problem to rely on pitching to contact. It’s not like you’re going to be facing a top-of-the-line pitcher like you often do in the postseason and it’s a nice way to manage workloads. Those K’s are invaluable in the playoffs though.

  • Mike

    Good article. My original thought about the upcomine MLB draft is exactly that, for the Twins to draft Mark Appel. But then I started thinking…. Wouldn’t it be good for the Twins if they drafted Mike Zunino and move Mauer over to perhaps 3rd base? I really don’t want to move Mauer because he has the most “worth” or “value” from a contract standpoint at catcher. But the facts are Mauer might not hold up at catcher, and by bringing in Zunino he could pretty much come right in and play. I don’t know. I know the Twins need good prospects in a bad way so I guess whatever way they go it won’t be too bad. Can’t wait for the draft!

    • Craig Williams

      Thanks, I appreciate it Mike.

      I definitely hear what you’re saying about Mauer, but I don’t think the Twins necessarily need to get a catcher in this draft before they move him out from behind the dish. I’m not sure if Chris Herrmann can eventually become the answer at catcher, but I would guess that the Twins would move Mauer to another position when they decided it was time and then worry about replacing him after that. I agree that he’s so valuable because of his ability to provide offense from the catcher position, but keeping him healthy is the most important thing. How many more years do you think Mauer can don the tools of ignorance?