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Let's talk about Castro....

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Deadline Primer: Internal Options

On Tuesday, I wrote about the Twins Core Four (Sano, Buxton, Kepler and Berrios) and how their first half should give Twins fans hope for 2017 and beyond. While those four have already been joined by a few more young players, there are several more minor leaguers that could get an opportunity as early as 2017. If not, they should get an opportunity in 2018.

Yesterday, Nick wrote an article asking whether the Twins should consider using Nick Gordon in potential trades later this month in an attempt to bring in some top-level starting pitching.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (photos of John Curtiss, Fernando Romero, Trevor Hildenberger)
What if the Twins front office is unwilling to meet the high asking price of teams selling off high-end pitchers with years remaining on their contracts? What if they believe that they have some minor league talent that can help them right now in the second half? If so, that allows those players an opportunity to help. It also gives them valuable experience as we look toward 2018 and beyond.


With series against the Astros, Tigers, Yankees and Dodgers in the next couple of weeks, we will soon know whether the Twins should be buyers or sellers at the July trade deadline.

Today we consider which minor leaguers could help in 2017 or 2018. The purpose of this is to provide readers with the names of prospects who are close to contributing in the big leagues at some point in the not-too-distant future to some degree. Some of these guys may be able to help the Twins in a potential playoff push. Others may be guys you’ll hear about in trade rumors.

Pitching

It all starts with pitching, and starting pitching remains a concern for the Twins. While Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios have been mostly reliable, there are question marks after that. Adalberto Mejia has been pretty solid his last four starts. Kyle Gibson’s been OK since his return from the minors. Bartolo Colon is the latest in a string of veterans brought in.

The front office has said it isn’t particularly interested in trading assets for short-term guys. They may, however, be interested in guys who will be around for awhile. Those names include the likes of Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, Jose Quintana, Marcus Stroman, Dan Straily and others. There is, of course, a wide range of talent in that group, and we have no way of knowing exactly what it would take to acquire any one of them.

So who are the options that are relatively close. Several weeks ago, I wrote an article saying that three AA pitchers were probably the next in line internally. We’ve seen Felix Jorge make two starts, and as you would expect from a guy from Double-A, one was pretty solid, and the other didn’t go so well. Fernando Romero has the biggest ceiling of the group. Right now, his innings are being closely monitored, likely in an attempt to keep him on the mound through the season. He could come up to make a couple of starts, or he could be used in the bullpen late, providing a 95-99 mph fastball with two other pitches. The guy who may be the most ready to contribute is Stephen Gonsalves. While he doesn’t reach into the upper 90s, he is consistently between 91 and 94 with a high knowledge of how to pitch. He, however, is not currently on the 40 man roster. The team would hate to call him up only to use an option, so they would want to be pretty certain.

At Triple-A, there are the likes of Tim Melville, Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee, journeyman minor leagues. One pitcher who has not yet had an opportunity with the Twins is Aaron Slegers, and that tells me that they believe he has a chance to be a mid-to-back end of the rotation type. He’s been inconsistent, but he’s had some really terrific games too. He may be a sleeper later in the season.

Two other guys fit into the sleeper category, more likely options for 2018. Kohl Stewart got off to a terrible start this year, went on the DL for six weeks and has returned to form since his return. That means not a ton of strikeouts, but good control and a lot of weak contact. Dereck Rodriguez has made a handful of starts for the Lookouts as well. He can become a free agent following the season and will receive some consideration for a 40-man spot. They may try to sign him to a minor league deal and hope he isn’t selected in the Rule 5 draft. Lewis Thorpe is back and pitching well. He’ll be an interesting case this offseason and looking to 2018.

The Bullpen has also had its issues at times this year. It can be solid, but every couple of weeks, it has a complete clunker. When the starter provides six of seven innings, Taylor Rogers and Brandon Kintzler have been really reliable. Tyler Duffey was solid too in his transition to the bullpen, though he struggled and needed the All Star break late. I would contend that Buddy Boshers has been quite solid most of the time.

There are, as always, a bunch of relievers from sub-.500 teams that will find themselves available. Minnesotans Pat Neshek and Brad Handwere all stars this year, and are at varying ends of the available relief pitcher spectrum. Neshek is in his upper-30s, having a great year, but a free agent at the end of the season. He could be a good stop gap for the rest of this season. Hand is just 27 and has come into his own in the Padres bullpen the last two years. He has two years of arbitration remaining after this season. Because of that, the prospect return from each is very different. There are many other relievers in between those two.

However, there are also several bullpen options in the minor leagues that are at least intriguing and may deserve an opportunity already in 2017. Certainly a few could help the bullpen moving forward.

We have already seen guys like Michael Tonkin and Alex Wimmers. Alan Busenitz has been back and forth between Rochester and the big leagues a couple of times in the last month. Trevor Hildenberger is now with the team and performing well.

There is a group of pitchers with big arms and bright futures that are hurt. Nick Burdi had Tommy John surgery. JT Chargois has a stress reaction near his elbow. Tyler Jay had surgery for Thoracic Outlet syndrome. Zack Jones had shoulder surgery last fall and is just now getting into games in the GCL as rehab.

Meanwhile, John Curtiss has given up three runs on the entire season. He recently moved up to AAA. He has a big fastball and a barrage of secondary pitches that make him intriguing. Jake Reed started his season late due to an injury, but he’s been pitching well of take for the Red Wings. Luke Bard missed a lot of time early in his career, but he came back last year and was good. He’s been even better this year at AA, putting up silly strikeout numbers. Mason Melotakis was DFAd recently and went unclaimed, but he’s still got a chance to be a quality lefty option. We saw young Randy Rosario get into a couple of games for the Twins in early June. It didn’t go real well for him, but he’s got potential to be a really good fastball-slider lefty. The Nik Turley experiment didn’t work as a starter, but he has the kind of stuff that could work well in short bursts out of the bullpen.

Todd Van Steensel has been in the organization for a long time, and a couple of times. He apparently isn’t a big prospect despite the fact that he continues to put up strong numbers year after year, and now in Chattanooga. At some point, that might get him an opportunity. Nick Anderson, signed out of indy ball late in the 2015 season, has been dominant, now at AA as well. Looking toward midseason 2018, Tom Hackimer and Andrew Vasquez are two names to watch as they have good stuff and could move quickly.

Hitters

Zack Granite is up, and while I don’t know exactly how long he’ll be here or how Paul Molitor will use him, he’s a good guy to have. While he may fit the role of fourth outfielder perfectly behind Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, he needs to keep playing most every day. Either Molitor needs to find a way to do that, or Granite needs to go back to AAA and wait for an opportunity.

Daniel Palka may have been an option at some point this season, but a broken finger has cost him time. He could return in the coming weeks and be an option in September. At Chattanooga, LaMonte Wade continues to define what a professional hitter looks like. He has more walks than strikeouts while providing a lot of doubles power and good defense. These two may be 2018 guys. A sleeper option for fourth outfielder might be Puerto Rican Edgar Corcino who recently was promoted to AAA Rochester.

In the infield, it would be interesting to see what might happen should an injury occur. If they need a shortstop, would they go with the great glove of Engelb Vielma, or jump right to Nick Gordon, who has been strong this year in Chattanooga. If they were to need a utility guy, Niko Goodrum has jumped back into the prospect discussion with a solid showing in Rochester this year. Of course, Tommy Field and his defense may be perfect for the role of utility infielder if that is what is needed.

In my opinion, the best overall catcher in the Twins system right now is Mitch Garver. His defense may not be on par with Jason Castro, Chris Gimenez or John Ryan Murphy, but he has become a solid defender with a very strong arm. And, he’s probably got the biggest bat of the three. I say "probably" only because we never know what that transition to the big leagues will be like for any player. But he takes a very professional at bat, walks a lot, and has double and home run power. Now he just waits for an opportunity. Meanwhile, he has become more versatile by getting some time at first base and in left field.

So the question that the Twins front office has to be how to incorporate these younger, minor leaguers into the big leagues. What their chances are of contributing to the Twins in a pennant, playoff push in 2017 compared to trading some of these assets for short or long term help.

Can both strategies work? Can they get short-term help without losing big prospects to help them this year? Are they willing to give up high-ceiling prospects for long-term help at various positions? Or, can they push their prospects to the big leagues and hope for a boost? Maybe some of both can be done.


What do you think?

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40 Comments

Great article, Seth. We know you and all the TD writers do your homework and have first-hand knowledge of what is really going on. I hope the Twins take a look at our own minor leaguers before trading off some of the top prospects for guys who won't really help much. Enjoy the run we've made up to this point, but the serious quest begins in 2018 so see if we have the answers to maybe our pitching woes in our own system.

    • Seth Stohs, peterb18, brvama and 6 others like this
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Tom Froemming
Jul 13 2017 08:10 AM

Love this! Dying to see Garver on the Twins. I think he can co-exist with Castro and Gimenez on the same roster, assuming they carry a four-man bench.

 

Have any thoughts on David Hurlbut? His numbers a very similar to Slegers'.

    • peterb18, nicksaviking, Cory Engelhardt and 3 others like this
Thanks Seth for another nice synopsis of what's available. I enjoy all of these articles by you, Nick, and the others. One of the things that has many worried is that the national view of our MiLB prospects is not very strong although it seems to have some good depth. That being said, while we all hope that those coming up are at least future regulars, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that most players have a limited run in the majors. So, I'm hoping that several of these players can be serviceable for a couple of years and that a couple turn out to be more than that. While we will debate the performances we expect of any candidate for promotion you bring me back to reality with the following comment from your Graver paragraph: ""I say "probably" only because we never know what that transition to the big leagues will be like for any player.""

 

Love this! Dying to see Garver on the Twins. I think he can co-exist with Castro and Gimenez on the same roster, assuming they carry a four-man bench.

 

Have any thoughts on David Hurlbut? His numbers a very similar to Slegers'.

 

I'm a big fan of David Hurlbut. Really good dude. Solid AAA pitcher. He fits the mold of guys like Jason Wheeler, Andrew Albers, Logan Darnell, Pat Dean, etc. Lefty. Tops out at about 90. Good changeup. Good curveball. Needs to be pinpoint. I'd love to see him get a shot sometime, even if it's just one start. He can become a free agent at the end of the season.

    • Tom Froemming and MN_ExPat like this

I appreciate the national view, but like just about everything in baseball, even the best are wrong 2 out of 3 times.  Even just 3 months ago, nobody was predicting Judge for MVP, let alone ROY.  I'm the type that would rather see the prospects get a chance, at least at this point.  I think with the way they've prepped them, Garver, Curtiss, Romero, Gonsalves, Reed, and Granite are all ready to contribute soon.  Will Curtiss be better than Hand?  Maybe not this year, but the experience gained while pitching when it counts will be valuable, which goes for all these guys.  Best case scenario is they all perform reasonably well at MLB, enhancing their trade value for this winter.

    • D.C Twins likes this
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LA VIkes Fan
Jul 13 2017 09:20 AM

Thanks for putting in the effort to do this. Your profiles tend to reinforce what a lot of us have been thinking. The Twins have internal options for the bullpen and roster that at least give one hope that improvement can be found internally.  It's hard to see that in the starting pitching candidates at least for this year. We're also starting to read things like Dozier's comments in the Strib this morning:

 

“We all think that they are not going to just sit around and let this thing play out, by any means,” Dozier said of the front office. “When you are around first place at the deadline, you don’t take that for granted. You go get it.”

 

That tells you that the team  leaders are looking to the FO to "do something" to strengthen the team. Those calls will get even louder if the team survives this first 12 out of the All Star break against the Astros, Yankees, Tigers and Dodgers with an even .500 record or better at the end of July. The new FO is also trying to get the fans to re-engage and that means playing more meaningful games in August or September.  

 

All of this puts us in an interesting spot. Be prepared for one or more of your favorite prospects to go away for a starter and probably on an overpay if the Twins are at least 2 or 3 games over .500 at the end of July. It may not be the right thing to so (I would rather pick up a stopgap RH batter like Howie Kendrick) but I think it's the likely thing.  

    • MN_ExPat likes this

Love this! Dying to see Garver on the Twins. I think he can co-exist with Castro and Gimenez on the same roster, assuming they carry a four-man bench.
 
Have any thoughts on David Hurlbut? His numbers a very similar to Slegers'.


I concur: why the hate on Hurlbut? I agree he's not the next Cy Young, but couldn't he be given a chance?

Thank you for the thoughtful article.IMHO, the article might be better titled "September Call-ups" or "Spring Training 2018". 

How is Mason Melotakis not getting more attention for promotion?  He's had some injuries, but he's been solid his whole career (when healthy).  I've commented before on our AA and AAA bullpen in the past.  Too bad that Chargois and Burdi seem to be on the DL more than on the field, but our high minor bullpens are fairly solid.  Between Jake Reed, Melotakis, and Curtiss, we could at least TRY to fill the a hole in our bullpen in the coming series before we possibly commit to Neshek or Hand by shipping some high end prospects.

    • Monkeypaws likes this
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bluechipper
Jul 13 2017 09:56 AM

 

I concur: why the hate on Hurlbut? I agree he's not the next Cy Young, but couldn't he be given a chance?

I think we've seen enough of these soft tossing lefties over the past few years. Hurlbut is a nice guy to have give you solid innings in the minors, but his pitching style usually doesn't translate.

    • peterb18, Danchat and Vanimal46 like this

How is Mason Melotakis not getting more attention for promotion? He's had some injuries, but he's been solid his whole career (when healthy). I've commented before on our AA and AAA bullpen in the past. Too bad that Chargois and Burdi seem to be on the DL more than on the field, but our high minor bullpens are fairly solid. Between Jake Reed, Melotakis, and Curtiss, we could at least TRY to fill the a whole in our bullpen in the coming series before we possibly commit to Neshek or Hand by shipping some high end prospects.


If Melo had any chance of making the big leagues this season they wouldn't have removed him from the 40 man roster a couple weeks ago.

You pretty much covered the guys whop could step into regular roles with the Twins NEXT year. They all COULD have long careers in baseball and with the Twins, rather than just short-term call-ups. But is there enough quality to build a team around? They still need a free agent or two...the Twins alck a DH right now, they MAY lack a closer if Kintzler walks. If all those starters filter in next year, they will still come up short and none are true #1s. Even jumping waaaaay ahead to 2020 and having Jorge, Romero, Gonsalves, Garver, Granite, Vielma, Gordon, Reed, Hildenberger, etc. as the core of the roster...how does it stack up as a competitive team supplemented with then vets Rosario, Kepler, Polanco, Sano, Berrios, et al.

 

Better yet, out of all the names you mention, how many would be "wanted" by other teams. You mention Dereck Rodriguez needing to be added to the 40-man. The Rule 5 could happen if he is resigned. But can he break into the bullpen or rotation in 2018?

 

Suddenly, the rebuilding with prospects isn't as exciting as it may sound. So you either throw money at free-agents, or trade prospects for a next year team.

You're probably at least somewhat correct Roster. Although we as fans will most likely see something in between meh and eternal baseball glory. This is baseball and almost nowhere else does the law of averages rule quite the same way.
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ashburyjohn
Jul 13 2017 01:35 PM

If Melo had any chance of making the big leagues this season they wouldn't have removed him from the 40 man roster a couple weeks ago.

He cleared waivers, which I think are good for the rest of the season. He could be added to the 40-man anytime it's convenient, and then removed if they want to send him back down again. I think.

He cleared waivers, which I think are good for the rest of the season. He could be added to the 40-man anytime it's convenient, and then removed if they want to send him back down again. I think.


Even if that's true, it doesn't change my point that you don't remove him in the first place if you think he'll make the mlb club this season.
Of course, unforeseen events could change that. But, it's highly unlikely, IMO.
    • Mike Sixel, Danchat and Vanimal46 like this

He cleared waivers, which I think are good for the rest of the season. He could be added to the 40-man anytime it's convenient, and then removed if they want to send him back down again. I think.


That is incorrect. Waivers would have to be requested anew if he were added back. The waiver period only means they could have delayed outrighting him, it does not mean they get to outright him more than once.
    • Danchat likes this

I love this kind of perspective, but it shows that we are not really set to improve the major league team with the current group. 

 

The pitcher section was pretty weak.  Gonsalves is a #5, but should be given a shot.  What about Romero it would seem that he is ready and should take the place of Gibson who has not been okay since returning.

 

Curtiss seems the only obvious bullpen call up and that is amazing since we have talked about all the relief options the Twins were developing.

 

The hitters also lack luster now that Granite is with the team.  Vielma is a weak hitting Adrianza and Gordon does not project to be more than Polanco and the current version of Dozier. Palka is Vargas with more Ks.

 

I have really disliked the way that Garver has been treated and he is now 26 which means its time to move him up and give him a chance.  Maybe they can put Giminez in the Bullpen and make Garver number 2 (although I am less impressed with Castro than most so I would give Garver a much bigger role). 

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ashburyjohn
Jul 13 2017 04:01 PM

That is incorrect. Waivers would have to be requested anew if he were added back. The waiver period only means they could have delayed outrighting him, it does not mean they get to outright him more than once.

I checked again and, perhaps more importantly, you can outright a player (as I believe was the case for Melo) only once without his permission. The second time, in the example I tried, he has the right to choose free agency. That would put a real limit on a team's aspirations to move a player on and off the 40.

 

Never mind.

 

 

So the question that the Twins front office has to be how to incorporate these younger, minor leaguers into the big leagues. What their chances are of contributing to the Twins in a pennant, playoff push in 2017 compared to trading some of these assets for short or long term help.

 

Well... I think that it is more of evaluation than incorporation.And some of that will happen at the minor league level with some players not making it to the bigs.For example: The one time I saw Slegers pitch in a game this season he was horrible.From what I have seen throughout his career, his stuff, like Wheeler's, just does not translate to the bigs.Maybe in the pen, if he can add 3-4 mph.Maybe.And then I think that his ceiling might be Tonkin...

 

More than nit-picking:

 

 

 

Adalberto Mejia has been pretty solid his last four starts. Kyle Gibson’s been OK since his return from the minors...

We’ve seen Felix Jorge make two starts, and as you would expect from a guy from Double-A, one was pretty solid,

 

I would love to figure out what "solid" and "ok" is.  

Data:

 

Game Scores (50 is average)
Mejia's last four starts:62, 61, 51, 51
Gibson's starts since his return: 30, 48, 53, 59, 28, 45, 49, 42, 58, 15
Jorge's starts: 42, 21

 

So "solid" Mejia, has been from above average to high average, while Jorge's "solid" start was way below average. I'd say that Mejia has been "good to very good" the last 4 starts, and that Jorge "struggled" in both of his starts, with the last one being horrible.

 

Gibson's "ok" includes 3 horrible starts, 2 very good starts, 2 average starts, 1 above average start, and 2 below average starts.That is not "ok" by any means.Gibson, since his return has been "up and down", but mostly "not very good".

 

For comparison's purpose, Nik Turley's game scores were 34, 13, and 20, Adam Wilk's 24 and Nick Tepesch's 29(Nothing "ok" about any of those either)

 

So if the

 

"Nik Turley experiment didn’t work as a starter"

 

It would be fair to say that the Felix Jorge experiment did not work, because he really was pitching at the Turley territory,and Gibson, also was there is about 1/4 of his starts post recall...

 

Just not many SP options internally.I'd like to see Romero and Gonsalves make it (in that order) just because I would like to see them pitch for the Twins, but I don't want to see them pitch like Jorge or Turley and someone has to evaluate whether they can do that before they bring them up.

    • HitInAPinch likes this

I checked again and, perhaps more importantly, you can outright a player (as I believe was the case for Melo) only once without his permission. The second time, in the example I tried, he has the right to choose free agency. That would put a real limit on a team's aspirations to move a player on and off the 40.

Never mind.


This is true, but also, the waiver period is actually only 72 hours for players on optional assignment to the minors, like Melotakis was.

I still think that waivers might "reset" once a player is re-added to the 40-man, but it is mostly a moot point. It would really only impact a certain class of player (making a decent salary but with less than 5 years service time, like Milone last year, so they can't refuse the assignment without forfeiting their salary). And if such a player clears waivers once, he would probably be likely to clear again. So it doesn't really matter if the team can skip waivers on him the second time.

 

This is true, but also, the waiver period is actually only 72 hours for players on optional assignment to the minors, like Melotakis was.

I still think that waivers might "reset" once a player is re-added to the 40-man, but it is mostly a moot point. It would really only impact a certain class of player (making a decent salary but with less than 5 years service time, like Milone last year, so they can't refuse the assignment without forfeiting their salary). And if such a player clears waivers once, he would probably be likely to clear again. So it doesn't really matter if the team can skip waivers on him the second time.

But then anopther team can claim him for a 40-man spot, and almost immediately ask waivers, sending him to their own minor league system. 

But then anopther team can claim him for a 40-man spot, and almost immediately ask waivers, sending him to their own minor league system.


But then they would be responsible for the player's salary. I limited that paragraph to guys like Milone last year, and no one was going to claim him at that price if he wasn't performing -- and if he was performing, obviously the Twins wouldn't be sending him to the minors!
Realistically, I don't think they're going tonbe hanging around with Cleveland much longer. I think it would be a good idea to get some of the guys mentioned, like Garver and Romero, a taste of the big club. If they happen to perform and help the club win some games, its gravy.

Gee will be called up.  He is stretched out now with a 0.00 ERA, and he can opt out of the contract tomorrow if he wants. Someone else would pick him up, so he only stays in the minors for the Twins longer with a very shiny promise from the Twins. With the Twins pitching situation being what it is, the Twins would be fools to play it that way and keep him down any longer.

 

Colon will also be with the team, though probably not quite so quickly.

 

Those are the two internal options who have a realistic chance of making a difference. The difference Colon would make at this point might be more as a mentor -- and I don't want to diminish that value as his presence can only help the team.

 

Gee will be called up.  He is stretched out now with a 0.00 ERA, and he can opt out of the contract tomorrow if he wants. Someone else would pick him up, so he only stays in the minors for the Twins longer with a very shiny promise from the Twins. With the Twins pitching situation being what it is, the Twins would be fools to play it that way and keep him down any longer.

 

Colon will also be with the team, though probably not quite so quickly.

 

Those are the two internal options who have a realistic chance of making a difference. The difference Colon would make at this point might be more as a mentor -- and I don't want to diminish that value as his presence can only help the team.

 

who is he mentoring? And isn't Santana, Belisle, Breslow, Hughes, Perkins enough mentors?

 

I mean, really, which young SP needs mentoring? And how many mentors does he need?

 

Are you sure his presence can only help the team? It isn't possible he is a bad pitcher now, and his presence will hurt the team? Do we know he's a great mentor or whatever?

    • jimmer likes this

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