Following a 2012 that saw the Minnesota Twins’ pitching staff accumulate a 4.77 ERA, team general manager Terry Ryan sought to improve one of the worst pitching staffs in all of baseball. What did Ryan get for the fruit of all his labor? Ryan acquired Trevor May, Vance Worley and Alex Meyer via trade, while also bringing in Rich Harden, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia and Rafael Perez via free agency. While these moves were thought to have bolstered the pitching depth for the Twins, the team has run into their old nemesis that has put the depth of their staff in question yet again: the injury bug.
The Twins have restocked their pitching depth by drafting talented youngsters such as Jose “J.O” Berrios, Luke Bard and Mason Melotakis and are positioned to add another talented arm in the 2013 draft as well. In addition to the new talent that was added, the team also has pitchers such as Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers in the minor league system with Gibson, the closest one of the two to being ready, to pitch at the majors.
In the bullpen, the Twins bolster a talented closer in Glen Perkins and a solid setup man in Jared Burton. The team also has a talented lefty specialist in Brian Duensing and a solid right-hander in Casey Fien to count on in the bullpen. Outside of those options, there are still many question marks left in the team’s bullpen. Currently the bullpen is projected to look like this:
Setup Man- Burton
Lefty Specialist- Duensing
Middle Relief- Fien
Middle Relief- Ryan Pressly
Secondary Lefty- Tyler Robertson
Long Relief- Josh Roenicke
Bullpen stalwart over the past few years Anthony Swarzak is slated to come back into the bullpen when he recovers from an injury suffered prior to spring training. When Swarzak does regain his health, I’d look for Robertson to be sent back down to the minors with Roenicke moving to a middle relief position.
If any of the pitchers were to falter in the bullpen, promotional options consist of Anthony Slama, Michael Tonkin, Tim Wood or maybe a youngster such as Melotakis. All in all, the bullpen was a position of relative strength for the Twins last season, but there is so much uncertainty surrounding the middle and long relief positions that it is difficult to feel comfortable about endorsing the bullpen.
Speaking of uncertainty, the Twins rotation is full of it. Currently, the projected rotation to start the 2013 season is:
4. Liam Hendriks
5. Cole De Vries
Those names shouldn’t inspire a lot of confidence for Twins’ fans, but things have gotten much more difficult with the injuries to staff ace Scott Diamond, promising youngster Samuel Deduno and Harden. In addition, De Vries left his last start with forearm tightness and Hendriks was hit in his pitching arm with a line drive in his last start. So when you take all of that into consideration, the Twins starting rotation is currently in shambles.
The most likely option to step into the rotation for the short term—if any of the projected starters are to miss time—would be Duensing, Gibson or Pedro Hernandez until Diamond or Deduno are ready to step into the rotation. Needless to say, the team lacks established starting pitching on its current roster, but help is on the way in the minor leagues.
By season’s end, top pitching prospects like May, Meyer, Berriors and Gibson may have a shot at making their debut at the majors. A potential pitching rotation of May, Meyer, Berrios, Gibson and Worley looks much more promising than the current version of the Twins’ pitching staff, but the Twins will have to wait for that dream to come to fruition.
When you look at the Twins pitching staff heading into 2013, it is hard to have a lot of optimism. If I were to predict how the pitching staff will fare this year, I’d say the staff will average a slightly better 4.50 ERA for the season. However, those numbers will likely rank among the worst in the league for the second consecutive season. A lot of the team’s success will depend on the health of its pitchers, which the team hasn’t been able to count on. All in all, there are some good things building in the Twins’ pitching staff for the future, but this year’s version may struggle to gain respectability.