I posted the Twins Minor League Starting Pitchers of the month a day early, but nothing would have changed with it had I waited a day. This morning, I am happy to present to you the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month, and tomorrow, I’ll follow-up with the Twins minor league Hitter of the Month for May. Happy June!! I’m about to embark on the Territory Train, bound for Davenport, Iowa, tonight to watch the Quad Cities River Bats take on Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Twins Daily contributor AJ Pettersen and the rest of the Beloit Snappers. On Saturday morning, we will drive to Beloit to watch a Snappers game at Pohlmann Stadium. It should be a fun trip and expect a blog or two on the events.
For now, enjoy the fact that there were a lot of very good relief pitching performances in the Twins organization in May. It was tough to limit the list to six. However, here are my choices for the Top 6 Twins Minor League Relief Pitchers in May:
Number 6 – New Britain – LHP Blake Martin
- 9 G, 0.82 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 11 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 10 K,
I have to be honest, I am surprised that Blake Martin is still in the Twins organization. The last two seasons, he has actually walked more than he struck out and put up really poor numbers. However, the left-hander remains with the organization and had himself a terrific month of May. He likely won’t be a control pitcher, but he can get left-handers out. Hopefully he can continue this success moving forward and get a shot in Rochester later in the season.
Number 5 - Beloit – RHP Clinton Dempster
- 9 G, 1.84 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 14.2 IP, 9 H, 7 BB, 12 K,
Dempster was drafted by the Twins in 2010, and in the first half of 2011, he dominated out of the Beloit bullpen. He earned a midseason promotion to the Miracle, but things really didn’t go well for him there. He started this season back with the Miracle, and after a bit of a slow start, he has returned to his more dominant form. Dempster could be in line for another midseason promotion to the Miracle, one he is likely more ready for this go around.
Number 4 – New Britain – LHP Caleb Thielbar
- 10 G, 2.65 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 17 IP, 16 H, 2 BB, 14 K,
Thielbar was a nice story last year. The Minnesota native signs with the St. Paul Saints and late in the season, he became the first player that the Twins signed from the Saints. He pitched well in a couple of outings for the Miracle, but many assumed the story ended there. Thielbar started this season with the Miracle and had a tremendous April, earning a spot on this list a month ago, and earning his late-April promotion to AA. It would have been a nice story had it ended there. However, the left-hander keeps the great story going by pitching remarkably well in New Britain. He has good stuff, and terrific control, and apparently that is a good combination.
Number 3 – New Britain/Rochester – RHP Lester Oliveros
- 8 G, 1.88 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 14.1 IP, 11 H, 2 BB, 19 K
Oliveros came to the Twins last August in the Delmon Young trade. The hard thrower split 2011 between the Tigers, their AAA and AA affiliates, the Twins and their AAA affiliate. With many bullpen arms coming out of spring training, the Twins wisely sent this hard thrower back to AA, where he most recently had some dominating success. Oliveros handled it well, dominating the Eastern League the way you would hope and earning this month’s promotion to Rochester. During one stretch between AA and AAA, he accumulated consecutive scoreless innings. Oliveros is still just 24 years old and could be a very good big league reliever.
Number 2 – Ft. Myers – Bruce Pugh
- 9 G, 0.56 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 16 IP, 13 H, 3 BB, 13 K,
2011 was a frustrating season for the hard-throwing Pugh. He fought injury, but he also fought control issues throughout the season that continued into the Arizona Fall League. Pugh returned to Ft. Myers this spring and has shown better control. The results have been there, especially in May. He has the kind of stuff that make him a strong candidate for a future big league bullpen spot. It’s just a matter of control.
And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month
Anthony Slama - 11 G, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 11 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 18 K
Was there even any question about this one this month? Anthony Slama hasn’t given up a run in a long time, extending well back into April. He continues to strike out more and a batter and a half per inning. This month, his control was actually in check. The “Why hasn’t Slama been given a chance?” plot line continues to thicken because he has dominated AAA hitters for three seasons now. Maybe he will get another shot and prove us all wrong, or maybe he’ll find a way to continue to miss bats consistently. That debate will continue until he has a lot more than seven big league innings under his belt. But for now, we are left with giving him ‘awards’ like the Twins Minor League Reliever of the Month for May.
So what do you think? I’ve listed six players here and there are a few bullpen guys in the Twins farm system that could (should?) be recognized for their terrific performances this past month. Who would your choice be? How would you rank these guys (and feel free to include others)?
Be sure to check back later for the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month of May.