Duke Welker Makes Justin Morneau Trade Minimally Better
Although the Minnesota Twins also acquired Alex Presley—a career minor league outfielder with little or no upside for the future—they also received a player to be named later in the trade for Justin Morneau; that player to be named later was revealed Saturday night. To complete the deal, Pittsburgh sent right-hander Duke Welker to the Twins. In the minors, the 6-foot-7 right-hander has a 3.25 ERA in 61 innings for Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate this year.
While those stats do not indicate a player of dominance, the reliever does offer some minimal upside to the Twins’ future bullpen or starting rotation. It appears as if Welker has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen during his career, but the 27 year old is young enough and the Twins are in such dire need of possible starting pitchers that he could be a candidate to be converted into a starter; but I wouldn’t count on it.
According to scoutingbook.com, the scouting report on Welker is that he is, “a pure smoke-thrower who has broken 100 mph on many radar guns. Welker’s fastball explodes on right-handed hitters, while his slider dives sharply away. An older prospect, he has little left to prove in the minors, but if he can improve his control just a notch, he’ll break many MLB bats in the near future.”
That scouting report is very promising and if it is anywhere accurate, it could be a very nice potential pickup for the Twins; but as is the case with many flamethrowers: if you can’t throw strikes, you won’t stay in the league very long. Remember Jim Hoey? He is a perfect example of a pitcher who could throw hard, but couldn’t amount to much more. Welker appears to have more upside and polish than Hoey did, but you have to wonder why the Twins are receiving him in a deal that sends a franchise cornerstone to a playoff contender for a possible two month rental. Another thing that doesn’t inspire confidence in me is that Welker is the player to be named later and not the headliner in this deal. If he truly is a talented prospect with high upside and great tools, he likely would have been the headliner in this deal and not the player to be named; however, I could be mistaken.
Does Pittsburgh know something about Welker that the Twins do not or is Welker damaged goods that can be designated as a “reclamation project”? Whatever the case may be, it will be interesting to see how Welker fits into the Twins’ long-term plans in the bullpen and if he does, does that mean someone from the current bullpen will be moved into the rotation? Fans likely will not have the answer to that question anytime soon and it, like many other things, will be one of the many questions that the Twins will need to face as they prepare for the 2014 season this upcoming winter.