Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher Of The Month - April 2016
- RHP Jose Berrios (Rochester) – 3 GS, 2-0, 1.06 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 17.0 IP, 8 H, 8 BB, 20 K
- RHP Alex Meyer (Rochester) – 3 G, 2 GS, 1-1, 1.04 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 17.1 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 19 K
- LHP Jason Wheeler (Chattanooga/Rochester) – 5 GS, 1-0, 1.93 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 31.0 IP, 26 H, 4 BB, 25 K
- RHP Cody Stashak (Cedar Rapids) - 3 G, 2 GS, 2-0, 1.12 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 16.0 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 11 K
- LHP Randy Rosario (Ft. Myers) - 3 GS, 2-1, 1.02 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 17.2 IP, 13 H, 3 BB, 10 K
Number 5 – Cedar Rapids – LHP Sam Clay - 4 GS, 2-0, 0.79 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 22.2 IP, 20 H, 8 BB, 23 K
Clay was the Twins fourth-round pick in 2014 out of Georgia Tech. The left-hander started last season in Cedar Rapids but really struggled. So, he was sent down and pitched for Elizabethton. He was able to end the season back with the Kernels but overall posted a WHIP of 1.86 due to 26 walks in 33.1 innings. If this ranking was solely by ERA, Clay would be the top choice, but the walks are still too high. He went at least five innings in each of his starts and gave up one run or less in each. Clay doesn’t throw real hard, topping out around 92 as a starter, but he also has a good curveball. He could trickle up to Ft. Myers in the near future.
Number 4 - Cedar Rapids – RHP Randy LeBlanc - 4 GS, 2-2, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 24.0 IP, 15 H, 5 BB, 16 K
LeBlanc was the Twins 10th-round pick in 2014 out of Tulane. He had been drafted out of high school in 2010. Unfortunately, he needed Tommy John surgery in 2011 and had another elbow procedure in 2012. Last year, LeBlanc spent most of the time in the bullpen where he pitched well. However, he begins this season with an opportunity to start in Cedar Rapids, and he’s making the most of it. LeBlanc gets a lot of ground balls. His fastball is in the low 90s and he has a strong change-up. I would guess he would be the first Kernels starter to move up to Ft. Myers.
Number 3 – Ft. Myers – RHP Kohl Stewart - 4 GS, 1-0, 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 23.1 IP, 14 H, 6 BB, 26 K
The Twins top pick from 2013 returned to the Miracle to start the 2016 season despite just 4.89 K/9 last year. Blessed with a big fastball, it appears that he has cleaned up some mechanical issues and he is more consistent with a mid-90s fastball. He’s got a couple of really good breaking pitches and an improved change-up. Through April, he not only didn’t give up runs or base runners, he has 10.0 K/9. It is certainly an encouraging start for the talented right-hander.
Number 2 – Ft. Myers – RHP Felix Jorge - 4 GS, 1-2, 1.40 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 25.2 IP, 17 H, 4 BB, 22 K
Jorge struggled mightily as a 20-year-old in 2014 in Cedar Rapids, enough that he went back to Elizabethton where he was the Appy League Pitcher of the Year. What a difference a year made. In 2015, he was the most consistent pitcher in the Twins system. In 20 of his 22 starts for Cedar Rapids, he went at least six innings and never went less than five. He moved up to Ft. Myers this season and is right back where he started. He has had a quality start in all four of his outings. He throws a lot of strikes, sits and 92-94 with his fastball and has a good curveball and a much-improved change-up. Still just 22, Jorge continues to rise in prospect rankings.
And the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is:
Ft. Myers – LHP Stephen Gonsalves - 4 GS, 2-1, 1.44 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 25.0 IP, 12 H, 6 BB, 24 K
Stephen Gonsalves was the Twins fourth-round pick in 2013 out of high school in San Diego. Since signing he has been a very consistent performer, no matter what level he has been at. Between the GCL and Elizabethton, he made 14 appearances and went 4-1 with a 1.88 ERA. He made 17 starts in Cedar Rapids where he went 8-4 with a 1.96 ERA. He has now made 20 starts in Ft. Myers (15 last year and now five this year) and is a combined 10-3 with a 2.28 ERA. To say he is ready for the next challenge, AA and the Southern League hitters, might be an understatement.
The tall left-hander was named the Miracle Opening Night starter. According to Gonsalves, it meant a lot. “Opening Night was an honor to get that nod, to try to put us out on the right foot. It was a tough one to swallow, giving up a three-run shot in that game, but a good learning opportunity.”
Gonsalves gave up the three-run shot in the first inning of that first start. He proceeded to work five more innings without giving up another run. In his second start, he gave up zero runs in six innings. He started his third game with four shutout innings, meaning he went 15 innings without giving up another run. He ended that third start with seven innings and eight strikeouts and just the one run allowed. His fourth start was six shutout innings with just two hits allowed. To summarize, after giving up that three-run homer in his first inning of the season he gave up just one more run over the final 24 innings.
Gonsalves not only has good stuff, but he knows how to pitch and use all of his pitches.
“My key this month, I believe, was my ability to mix in all four of my pitches in any count. I had a lot of success being able to locate my slider and change-up behind in the counts to keep hitters guessing,” He continued, “My change-up has been key of late. I have thrown all my off speed 45% of the time and used my fastball 55%, but my change-up has been a big part these last two starts by getting more ground outs.
Gonsalves is the leader of the Miracle’s very talented starting staff. Consider that the top three performers this month were from Ft. Myers. Randy Rosario is in the Honorable Mention. Keaton Steele has a 2.28 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. And Gonsalves’s roommate, Tyler Jay, has remarkable stuff and is transitioning to being a starter.
“The pitching staff is very talented, and it has been a great vibe through us all. It has been a very friendly competition between all of us, helping each other out after each start has been great.”
Gonsalves will turn 22 in July. After JO Berrios, there is a small group of starters that could vie for the title of second-best Twins starting pitcher prospect, and Gonsalves is very strongly in that group. Seeing the rise of Berrios has been very encouraging to Gonsalves (and likely others).
“Seeing Berrios being brought up to the big leagues gives everyone an excitement knowing the Twins are moving guys up through the system quickly. The Twins are very smart in all the moves they do. They know best when we are ready and what we need to work on to get to that next level.”
Coming into the 2016 season, Gonsalves had several goals, but one stood out. It’s one he has been thinking about a lot, one he and I discussed in Ft. Myers in March.
“My number one goal this year is to get on track to be a part of the Futures Game in San Diego, in front of my family and friends.”
The San Diego native wants the honor for several reasons.
“It would mean the world to me to make this Futures Game in my hometown. I dedicated this season to my grandfather. He was my biggest fan throughout my entire life, and my best friend. It was his dream to be able to watch me pitch on a big league team one day. To have the entire family there with my grandparents and cousins and even all my high school friends would make it a very emotional weekend for me and my family.
The Futures Game is for top prospects in the game, and it’s fair to say that Stephen Gonsalves is a strong candidate to make the Team USA roster.
That game will take place just two days after Gonsalves turns 22. By then, he should have made a few starts in Chattanooga. I can’t imagine he will remain in Ft. Myers much longer based on his past success, his improved pitches and the great success in April.
There was a plethora of options for starting pitcher performances in April. Feel free to agree or disagree with the order if you like, but congratulations to each of these individuals on a great start to their 2016 season.
Congratulations to the April Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month for 2016, Stephen Gonsalves.