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.