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
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.
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
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
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.