Minnesota Twins pitcher Anthony Slama has endured his fair share of success at this point in his baseball career — albeit all in the minor leagues — and is looking to carry that success into the 2013 season. Slama is currently with the Twins’ this spring training and is competing for one of the bullpen spots for when the team heads north later this month.
The problem that is plaguing Slama in his quest to lock down a roster spot on the big league club doesn’t seem to be his talent, but instead — surprisingly — the organization’s willingness to give him an opportunity.
In order to earn such an opportunity in baseball, a game heavily driven by statistics, one must normally work their way through the minor leagues to merit an invitation to spring training with the big league squad. When teams’ evaluate players, they take into consideration a multitude of things, including statistics.
What I cannot seem to understand is if baseball values statistics, and the Twins seem to use them as a measuring stick for evaluating talent and providing opportunities, why hasn’t Slama received an extended opportunity to earn a big league roster spot?
Slama has a career 2.27 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP over 154.1 innings in four career seasons at the Triple-A level for the Twins. In most organizations, that would be enough for an opportunity at the majors — at least a chance in spring training, or late in the season with the team out of contention.
Yet, Slama only has a 5.14 ERA and a 1.857 WHIP over seven innings in seven career games for the Twins at the big league level, with his last appearance coming in 2011.
I mentioned earlier that statistics can sometimes be deceiving based on context and this is one of those situations. Seven games and seven innings seem like a very small sample size and a very limited opportunity to give to a player who has consistently been good at your top minor league team for the past four seasons.
The team has promoted pitchers like Tyler Robertson who had posted a career 4.72 ERA and 1.511 WHIP over 234 career innings in Triple-A. Granted, Robertson was a middle reliever and Slama was a closer, but the statistics clearly favor Slama and yet, the Twins chose to not give him an opportunity.
Skeptics point to Slama’s inability to get players out consistently at the big league level and believe he doesn’t have enough “stuff” to be a successful reliever. While that may be true, I feel that Slama hasn’t had enough time at the big leagues for that argument to be justified.
I believe that during situations like spring training or the end of the season, Slama should have an opportunity to prove himself.
If the team chooses to continue to ignore Slama’s success in the minors, what message is that sending to other players?
Slama has earned an opportunity to prove himself in the big leagues; it’s time the Twins wake up and realize this as well.