No Such Thing as Too Much Pitching, Right?
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY SportsLast season, the Twins used an insane number of starting pitchers. Injuries in addition to some performance issues and odd roster shuffling (the Jaime Garcia game) all made for the perfect storm, and the 2017 Twins started 16 different pitchers. Ugh.
That’s an abnormally high number, but over the past five seasons the Twins have averaged 11.8 different starting pitchers, 9.8 of whom made at least three starts.
Some teams are a little more fortunate. Cleveland, for example, has only averaged 8.8 different starting pitchers per season over the past five years, 7.8 of whom made at least three starts. Not everyone’s so lucky. There were 315 pitchers who started at least one game in 2017, an average of 10.5 per team.
Why so many? Well, the workhorse has become a dying breed. There were only 46 pitchers in all of baseball who made at least 30 starts. If you go back just to even 2012 and look at some of these same numbers, the differences are dramatic. There were 286 pitchers to start a game that year, 9.5 per team, and 65 hurlers made 30 or more starts.
Shifting gears to the Twins, let’s take a look at who’s currently in the org, keeping in mind that the team will more than likely need to depend on 10 or 11 of these guys. This isn’t a power ranking of starting pitching options per se, I’ve broken them up into categories instead.
No, Ervin won’t be ready for Opening Day, but the good news is that it sounds like he’ll be back with the Twins sometime in May. So I’m still going to include him as a lock.
Slegers is really close to being a lock to make at least a few starts. His status will have a great deal to do with who/how many free agent starters are signed. All four of these guys made their major league debuts last season, Jaye as a member of the Tigers. The Twins signed him to a minor league deal in late November.
New Role/In Recovery
Duffey is going to get the chance to stretch out in spring training, but if the injury bug hits the bullpen it would be no surprise to see him shifted back there. You could say the same thing about May, Hughes and Pineda, who are all in various stages of recovering from injuries. The plan for now is to prepare May to come back as a starter, but he of all people should know that plans can change.
Gonsalves has made a handful of starts at Triple-A, and is a good bet to debut sometime in the second half. But Romero (23 starts in Double-A) and Littell (14 starts in Double-A) are less experienced in the high minors.
OK, so that gives us 15 pitchers currently inside the Twins organization who could realistically start at some point in 2018. That sounds like a lot, right? Sure, but there are a whole lot of question marks surrounding several of those players.
Some of these names are not guys you’d trust right now to be successful at the major league level. It’d be fun to watch a couple of those rookies come up, but those guys could be in for rough adjustment due to the (idiotic) differences in the major and minor league baseballs. Remember how bad Berrios was in 2016?
There’s also the fact that there will certainly be more injuries, and probably ones that keep guys out more than 10-12 weeks. What are the odds that one of these guys suffers a torn UCL or major shoulder injury?
Knowing what we know today, how many more starting pitchers should the Twins add?
I'd say at least two who can be counted on to be in the rotation and one more on a minor league deal. How does Yu Darvish, Jaime Garcia and Drew Hutchison sound?
Is that too much to ask? How about Alex Cobb, Jason Vargas and A.J. Griffin?
Fine, I'll settle for Andrew Cashner, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jesse Chavez. OK, you're right, that's taking it a little too far. What do you think? Who would you like to see the Twins target? Would you rather see them be aggressive or leave room for some of the young guns to emerge?
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