Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Minor League First Half Grades -- Part 1

Over the next week or so, I'm going to be grading some of the first half performances of players in the Twins minor league system. Today, I'm focusing on starting pitchers, with a few short comments on the performance of the regular starters at each level.

Rochester Red Wings

Brian Duensing
I've been a pretty big Duensing fan since he was drafted by the Twins in 2005, and his quick and orderly rise through the system has been fun to watch. This season has been solid for Duensing -- his 120 innings pitched leads the Red Wings, and he has a solid 4.28 ERA and 1.27 WHIP with 71 K's and 31 walks. Those numbers aren't going to blow anyone away, but I'm not complaining.

Francisco Liriano
Liriano deserves credit for putting together an excellent season in Rochester after his disastrous start with the Twins. He currently has a 3.53 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 97.0 innings of work, with 86 K's and 28 BB's. Fans are starting to clamor for his return to the Twins, and it's hard to disagree. He gets an A from me because it was fully expected that he would struggle early on, and he appears to have bounced back fully.

Kevin Mulvey
Mulvey was in many ways the forgotten player in the Johan Santana trade, but he's put together an excellent first half. His 3-8 record belies the fact that he has a very solid ERA (3.84) and WHIP (1.39) to go along with a nice K-BB ratio (80-33) and the second most innings pitched on the staff (93.2). It's hard to argue with those numbers.

Philip Humber
Speaking of players acquired in the Santana trade, Humber was possibly the best known of the bunch. Notice I said "best known" and not "top rated" -- I don't think anyone thought that Humber would end up as a better player than Carlos Gomez or Deolis Guerra in the long run, but a lot of people had at least heard his name. Unfortunately, he's having a pretty miserable year -- 5.92 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in 79 innings of work, along with a somewhat lackluster 54-37 K-BB ratio. At 25, Humber is still young enough to turn things around, but this has been a discouraging year, without question.

Danny Graves
I don't have much to say on Graves. He's a veteran journeyman who I expected virtually nothing from. For awhile, he seemed to be pitching reasonably well, but those days seem to be over. His 5.18 ERA and 1.59 WHIP, along with his really low 22-16 K-BB ratio, have completely shut off some of the idle speculation from earlier this year that he might get called up to the bigs. At this point, he's just filling innings for the Red Wings. His grade is more a reflection of the fact that I expected nothing whatsoever out of him than it is a reflection of his performance.

New Britain Rock Cats

Ryan Mullins
Mullins has put together a respectable season for the Rock Cats, going 7-6 with a 3.84 ERA and 1.45 WHIP (a tad on the high side, that) in 100.2 innings. Of most concern to me, though, is Mullins relatively low K-BB number -- 58-43. To this point in his career, Mullins has put up a stronger ratio than that, and the fact that he doesn't appear to be missing as many bats could potentially be problematic. He's still doing very well, and so far there's no reason to think that this isn't a short-term anomaly, but it's something to be watched at least.

Anthony Swarzak
Swarzak has been pretty brutal this year, posting a 3-7 record, a 5.99 ERA, and a 1.67 WHIP. His 71-33 K-BB ratio is just fine, but that almost makes things worse because it means that when he isn't striking people out, he's giving up hits. I'd be a little less concerned if the WHIP was up because he had just lost his control. This is the first time in his Twins career that he's really struggled, and he's just 22, so I'm not yet going to give up on him. He's just going to have to rebound, and unless he's dominant in the second half he'll probably get a return trip to New Britain next year.

Jay Rainville
It hasn't been a good season for Rainville. After starting off in Ft. Myers and pitching quite well, he's since fallen apart in New Britain, going 6-7 with a 6.45 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 74 innings, along with a 41-25 K-BB ratio. Considering the ERA, I'd expect the WHIP to be worse, but there's not a lot encouraging in those numbers. Maybe a trip back to Ft. Myers would be due -- especially with a couple of hot pitchers in Ft. Myers deserving of promotions.
GRADE: D+ (bonus for solid work in High A)

Yohan Pino
Pino has only started a handful of games, but he still has 63 innings under his belt and has started more games than he's entered in relief. His numbers are solid -- 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 46-15 K-BB ratio. Eventually, it would be nice for the Twins to decide whether he's really a starter or reliever, but there's no arguing right now with his effectiveness as a swing man.

Jeff Manship
He's only made a few starts in New Britain, but I'm putting him here because it's where he is now. Unfortunately, excellent work in Ft. Myers has largely been offset by pretty bad numbers in New Britain -- 1-4, 5.06 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, and 27-11 K-BB ratio in 32 innings of work. I have no doubt that he will be able to adjust to AA, but so far the results haven't been what we all had hoped.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Alex Burnett
Burnett has a 3.78 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 104.2 innings, and has a competent K-BB ratio of 46-29. Other than the K-BB number, which is a bit low in comparison to his usual performance, he's right in line with what he's done in each of his three previous years as he's moved through the organization. There's very little to complain about here.

Cole DeVries
Speaking of nothing to complain about, DeVries has been lights out this year, posting a 7-7 record with a 2.79 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 76-27 K-BB ratio in 103.1 innings of work. Who would have figured that an undrafted free agent signing would be so impressive in his second season?

Deolis Guerra
I've been assured by many that Guerra is a potential blockbuster talent, but so far he hasn't quite put it all together. His numbers aren't really bad -- he's 9-4 with a 4.28 ERA and 1.43 WHIP -- but his 50-46 K-BB ratio is discouraging (and out of character). At just 19, it's way too early to judge where Guerra will eventually end up, but I remain somewhat skeptical, as I was when he was acquired. I sincerely hope that Guerra lovers are right on how he'll end up performing once he gets some experience.

Tyler Robertson
His numbers are extremely similar to Cole DeVries' numbers, although he has about 20 fewer innings pitched. So far, Robertson has a 2.72 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 73-31 K-BB ratio, and as with DeVries those numbers are good to see. So far, the 2006 3rd round pick is absolutely heading in the right direction -- but it will be interesting to see whether he suffers through the same adjustment period that so many good pitchers need when reaching AA.

Beloit Snappers

Michael Tarsi
After an extremely promising debut season in 2007 with Elizabethton, Tarsi has struggled in 2008 with Beloit, posting a 5.50 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 106.1 innings. On the extremely positive side, Tarsi has a 92-27 K-BB ratio. Those are mixed numbers if ever I saw them, and it makes Tarsi's season somewhat tough to grade. The bottom line, though, is that Tarsi is getting innings in and is throwing the ball past a lot of batters. I suspect that will hold true, so now he just has to make sure he doesn't let guys on when he's not striking them out.

David Bromberg
After two solid seasons with the Twins short-season clubs in the GCL and Elizabethton, Bromberg got a shot in Beloit this year. While his 6-6 record and 5.03 ERA suggests that he's struggled in his 96.2 innings, he also has a really solid WHIP (1.38) and K-BB ratio (107-35). That suggests that there's been a bit of an element of bad luck surrounding his high ERA, and that it should correct itself over time.

Santos Arias
Arias is having a very nice season for the Snappers, going 5-3 with a 3.08 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 70-17 K-BB ratio in 84.2 innings. I'd say the 21-year-old has firmly announced his presence in the organization.

Mike McCardell
McCardell posted great numbers split between the GCL and Elizabethton last year, and is continuing his solid early season run with a 6-2 record, 2.72 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 81-17 K-BB ratio. Because of the very low WHIP and excellent K-BB ratio, he gets an A+ -- a grade I don't give out very freely.

Brian Kirwan
Kirwan's numbers have been mediocre -- 4-4/5.06 ERA/1.58 WHIP/30-24 K-BB in 64 innings -- but I don't know what else would have been expected. So far in two seasons in the organization, Kirwan has struggled all the way. This year actually represents the best ERA he's ever posted, although his WHIP is worse than it ever has been. What grade do you give a guy who isn't supposed to pitch very well, and doesn't? How about a "C" for performing at his average?

Honorable Short Season Mentions

It's only a month into the GCL and Appalachian League seasons, so there's not been a lot to go on. So far, though, Shooter Hunt (0.64 ERA/0.29 WHIP/28-2 K-BB ratio in 14 innings) and Alex Curry (1.25 ERA/0.60 WHIP/20-2 K-BB ratio in 21.2 innings) have been the best of the bunch. On the downside, Daniel Berlind has an 11.03 ERA and 2.32 WHIP in 23.2 innings -- ouch!

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  • At Thu Jul 17, 09:28:00 PM , Anonymous Twins Fix said...

    Excellent stuff. Looking forward to the rest!

  • At Fri Jul 18, 12:59:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I really like it! However, I feel like you were a little generous with a few of the guys Cough*Humber*Cough Cough*Swarzak*Cough.

    Is there such a thing as an E- for Humber? He doesn't deserve an F, but, man,he's been bad.

  • At Fri Jul 18, 07:36:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Great write up, I just think that Tarsi's grade is a little low. He has had every bit as much bad luck as any other pitcher on the Beloit Team. The current position players have a total of 99 errors, not including outfielders just plain missing balls that should be caught.

  • At Fri Jul 18, 11:24:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    What about relievers? Any comments or grades for them?

  • At Fri Jul 18, 11:35:00 AM , Blogger JST said...

    Reliever and position player grades will be forthcoming next week once my family is out of town.

  • At Fri Jul 18, 05:00:00 PM , Anonymous TT said...

    The problem is no one is going to care how well guys did in April and May, its what they are doing in July and August that really matters. Which means you really have to evaluate their recent performance in June and early July to know where they stand now.

    For instance, over the last month Rainville has made four starts, pitched 22 innings and given up 17 hits and 7 earned runs. That is not a guy who is a candidate for being demoted to Fort Myers. If he pitches like that the rest of the year, no one is going to care about his earlier struggles.

    Guerra sandwiched a game where he went 5 innings and gave up 5 earned runs between a 9 inning complete game shutout and a 6.1 innings of shutout pitching. His ERA for July is 2.21 as a result. If he continues to make progress, no one is going to worry about his mediocre start.

    In the minor leagues its not how you start, its how you finish. Guys who improve move up. Guys who don't, get moved out.

  • At Fri Jul 18, 09:24:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    TT - perfectly fair point, and one I can't argue with. I'm still grading based on the half season of performance, but you're right that I should be more careful suggesting that players will or should be demoted based on overall numbers and not recent performances.


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