Deadline Primer: Internal Options
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.
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.
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?
- brvama, Cory Engelhardt, dbminn and 1 other like this