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  1. Twins Free Agent Pitching Targets

    January 2, 2013 mcrow24

    The Twins have been hitting the free agent and trade markets this offseason to upgrade the pitching rotation. They seem content at this point with what they have in the bullpen and positional players. According to LaVelle Neal III at the Star Tribune the Twins may not be done acquiring starting pitching.

    At this point we know that they picked up veteran Kevin Correia, Vance Worley, and Mike Pelfrey. They also took a flier on often injured Rich Harden.

    Realistic free agent targets for the Twins are becoming scarce. It appears that they are not willing to pay more than $8m  for just about any starter left on the market and certainly not much more than $6-$7m. Here are a few players that have been mentioned as possible free agent targets.

    Shaun Marcum

    Age: 30

    Marcum underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2008. He has a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, a cutter, changeup, slider and a curve.  He’s one of the few pitchers that will throw as many as six different pitches in a game. Marcum consistently puts up an ear in the 3.5 range will win 10-15 games per year.  Marcum missed two months last season with an elbow injury.

    At this point it appears that Cleveland, San Diego, Twins, and Toronto have all showed interest in Marcum.  Last season’s salary was about $7m and I would guess that he will demand $6-8m per year now. Most likely he’ll get a 1 or 2 year deal.

    Joe Saunders

    Age: 31

    Orioles, Padres, Mariners, Mets and twins have shown interest in Saunders. Saunders is a solid innings-eating pitcher who isn’t very flashy but can add stability to a rotation. He throws and average fastball but has a good slider and change. He also throws a curve but it’s not a strong pitch. Perhaps one of his best attributes is durability, give that he has historically seen 30+ starts since becoming a starter.

    Saunders’ contract from last year was $6m but even though he might have lesser ability than Marcum I feel like he has more value due to virtually no injury history and the amount of innings he can pitch. I would expect that he’ll get $8-$9m per year.

    Conclusion

    Saunders and Marcum are probably the only two legitimate free agent starters on the market that I can see being worthwhile for the Twins. There are others on the market that is intriguing like Dallas Braden but given that the Twins are already taking a flier on Rich Harden I don’t see that happening. Most of the remaining free agent starters either had their last start in the majors or are looking for what will be their last chance.

    Given the roster moves they’ve made already and the numbers of arms they’ll have in spring training I’m beginning to think the Twins are done with major signings. Saunders and Marcum could be great addition to the rotation but I think they’ll have to come with a discount double check.


  2. Twins Projected Rotation

    December 30, 2012 mcrow24

    It seems that once again the Twins have been at work picking up pitchers. It seems that their strategy this off-season is the shotgun method, throw volume at things and hope you hit something. So far the signings have been for  veterans like Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, and Rich Haren. Two of the three have very questionable health/durability issues and none of them could be considered more than a #3 or #4 starter on most MLB pitching staffs.

    It’s clear that these moves are largely meant to bridge to the young arms like Kyle Gibson, Trevor May, Liam Hendriks, and perhaps Cole DeVries.

    At this point the starting rotation shakes out something like this:

    #1- Vance Worley

    Age: 25

    Size: 6’2″ 230

    Acquired/Contract:  Trade for OF Ben Revere, Twins also received SP Trevor May.

    Vance is going into his 3rd full season at the MLB level as a starting pitcher. After a very successful rookie year where he posted an 11-3 record it in 21 starts with a 3.01 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 8 K/9  Worley was plagued with loose bodies in his elbow in his second year.  Worley started out with an impressive April going 3-2 with a 1.97 ERA and averaged 9 K/9 innings. In May he was placed on the DL for elbow inflammation and came off the DL and again looked good June before the elbow flared up again and plagued him the rest of the season. Assuming Worley is healthy all season he could be in line for a breakout season. However, if the Twins just get a young arm who can eat up innings and be something of an anchor for the staff they will be more than happy.

    Worley is not known for his overpowering stuff or velocity, he has a fastball in the low 90′s and has a solid change-up and curved but they are not outstanding. His real weapon seems to be the slider/cutter that breaks inside on a right handed hitter.

    #2-Kevin Correia

    Age: 32

    Size: 6’3″ 210

    Acquired/Comtract: 2012 FA, 2 years $10m ($4.5m in 2013, $5.5m in 2014)

    The second spot in the rotation could really be either Correia or Diamond, but we’ll give the nod to the veteran for these purposes.In a lot of ways Correia and Worley are similar. Neither are overpowering anyone with their fastball or has lights out stuff. However, Correia has less impressive stuff and less arm than Worley. Like Worley, Correia’s best pitch is a his slider/cutter. Correia seems to most successful when he commands his slider well keeping it low and inside on righties and paints the outside with lefties. Correia may have a better curve than Worley ,which in the absence of a true out-pitch, that he uses as a secondary pitch when ahead in the count.

    Correia often has issues making it through the batting order multiple times due to the lack of  overpowering stuff and often is all but done after 5 innings. Basically he’s going to be good for 5-6 innings 20 of 28 starts last seasons went 5+ innings only  3 starts went 7+ innings with no complete games. However, considering the market and the urgent need for a starter of MLB level quality, the amount paid seems to be a favorable deal.

    #3- Scott Diamond

    Age: 26

    Size: 6’3″ 220

    Acquired: 2010 Rule 5 Draft (Atlanta)

    Diamond was a surprise to some last season given that he didn’t have (you see a pattern?) great stuff. He throws a fairly straight, not very hard fastball (around 90) and solid change. His third and maybe best pitch is his curve-ball which is considered a plus pitch by some scouts. Diamond also started throwing a cut fastball more in 2012 which seems pretty effective in the right situation.

    Diamond is not a strikeout machine, only averaging 4.7 K/9 but the impressive part of his game is control. Diamond finished with an impressive 2.90 K/BB ratio last season showing that while he doesn’t strike guys out he doesn’t hand out many free passes either. Early projections for 2013 are that Diamond will see a rise in his ERA and K/9 so the overall season is predicted to regress.

    #4- Mike Pelfrey

    Age: 28

    Size: 6’7″ 250

    Acuired: Free Agent, 2012, 1 year $4 million.

    Plefry is a big, hard throwing pitcher with a fastball that touches 97 at times. His fastball also has good sinking movement on it and his by far his best pitch. He also throws a change, slider  and curve though none of them are considered plus pitches. In April of 2012 Plefrey announced that he was going to have Tommy John Surgery and it ended his season. The good news is that Pelfrey does not have a history of being injury prone so there is hope that he can get back to being close to what he was in the past. However, it’s going to be hard to predict how well he will fare in his first season back.

    Pelfrey was cleared to start throwing back in August and has been pitching every other day since then to college hitters at Wichita State. It is believed that his fastball is currently in the low 90′s and getting stronger. There is some history of pitchers throwing harder after Tommy John than before but it normally takes a full year of throwing. The Twins have consulted with Pelfrey and they have agreed for him to take three weeks off before ramping up for spring training.

    If healthy and back to form Mike Plefrey can make a very good #4 starter who can put up an ERA between 3.80-4.50 and win the Twins 10-15 games. It’s a huge if, but if it works out the Twins worked a good deal and if not they’re only on the hook for this season.

    #5- Rich Harden, Cole De Vries or Liam Hendriks

    The #5 spot int he lineup is pretty fluid right now. The Twins seem to really like both De Vries and Hendriks and they seem to be the most likely opening day #5 starters. They also still have Brian Duensing who has had chances to be a starter in the past. Sam Deduno and Nick Blackburn also will be competing for a spot in the rotation. Nick Blackburn seems to get chance after chance to be a starter for this team so it wouldn’t surprise me on bit if he gets strong consideration.We also have to consider Kyle Gibson who is coming off of Tommy John Surgery and hasn’t yet pitched at the MLB level. Newly acquired Trevor May who pitch in AA last season could possibly see the majors at some point in 2013.

    Perhaps the biggest wildcard here is Rich Harden who the Twins brought in for spring training. He’s often injured but has dominant stuff that can pile up strikeouts in a hurry. If he appear to be healthy in spring training and pitching well he has to be the odds on favorite for the #5 spot. However, given the large number of arms competing for a starting spot if Mike Pelfrey should struggle another one of these players could end up in the rotation also.


  3. Twins Sign Harden to Minor League Contract

    December 22, 2012 mcrow24

    The Twins have signed Rich Harden to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training to compete for a roster spot. Harden is an often injured vet of  parts of nine season. His most notable season came with the Oakland Athletics where started 76 games over five seasons posting a 31-17 record with 3.53 era. After his third season with the A’s Harden started to suffer regular injuries before ending up with the Cubs , then rangers  and again back with the A’s in 2011 before having surgery  and missing 2012.

    Harden’s career stats courtesy of fangraphs.com

    Hardens injury timeline:

    2005:

    Missed first month of the season with an oblique injury.

    August 19th  injured shoulder and missed a month.

    2006:

    Missed most of the season due to two long stints on the DL.

    2007:

    On and Off the DL most of the season.

    2008 and 2009 :

    These two seasons were by fare his most healthy ones outside of the first three seasons. He managed to start 51 games over the two seasons but even then  he spent a month on the DL in 2008.

    2010:

    Harden had didn’t pitch well and spent a month on the DL with a gluteal strain.

    2011:
    Harden started 15 games posting 5.12 era and was released by the A’s

    2012:

    Missed the entire season to shoulder strain and later had surgery on the shoulder capsule.

    Thoughts:

    Given the Twins’ starting pitching situation I don’t blame Terry Ryan for turning every stone and kicking every tire to see if he can find a bridge or two to cover the gap between the 2013 season and when the newly acquired pitching prospects. They are clearly looking for some vets to mix into the rotation for a year until the likes of Alex Meyer  and Trevor May are major league ready. Harden presents a low risk, low cost flier that would be a great find if he can even give you a dozen starts this year.  However, given Rich Harden’s history it is very unlikely that he will stay healthy long enough to contribute meaningful innings. Even if he were healthy Harden’s most recent healthy pitching stint wasn’t very impressive. Harden is known for having some of the beast stuff in the league, big time strike out potential and the Twins must be a little intrigued with that aspect of Harden’s game.


  4. Terry Ryan Revamping the Organization

    mcrow24

    Without a doubt one of  the biggest issues in the Twins Organization has been the minor league system. The last few years the Twins have not turned out any meaningful major league players from their minor league system. However, much of the criticism of the farm system is undue. The Twins had some good talent in the minors like Miguel Sano, the power-hitting third baseman, and OF trio Aaron Hicks, Byron Buxton and Oswaldo Arcia.

    All of the above players are top level prospects that most teams would love to have.Kyle Gibson going into the off-season was probably considered their best pitching prospect but is coming off Tommy John surgery. Gibson still figures to have strong chance of securing a spot in the rotation this season but the Twins have made it clear that he’ll be on an innings limit.

    In the off-season Terry Ryan has taken up the work to restock the shelves. He acquired promising prospects Trevor May and Alex Myer and young but experienced Vance Worley. Worley is an established solid pitcher in the major leagues who will contribute now and potentially for years. Worley isn’t an ace but is the type of guy you don’t mind plugging in the 3rd or 4th spot in the rotation efor the future. Alex Myer may end up being in the majors this year and May is a couple years out.

    More noticeable is the change in pitching philosophy from the much hated (by fans) “pitch to contact” style , most of the prospects and new additions are more strike-out style pitchers.