Injuries Have Hurt Prospects' Development
Image courtesy of Nick Nelson (of Miguel Sano)Let’s take a look at the Twins Daily Top 10 Prospects coming into the 2014 season.
#1 Byron Buxton – Outfielder
Baseball’s top prospect has seemingly been snakebitten in 2014. In mid-March, he dove for a ball in centerfield and hurt his wrist. He missed two months. He returned in early in May. However, five games into his return, he slid, feet-first, and reinjured the same wrist. He missed two more months. He returned in mid-July, and in his eighth game back, he was hit by a pitch in the other wrist and missed another week. As you know, a week ago he was promoted to New Britain. In his first game, he collided with right fielder Mike Kvasnicka and while there were no broken bones, he had a concussion and will not play again this season. The team is hopeful he can participate in the Instructional League and the Arizona Fall League.
#2 – Miguel Sano – Third Baseman
Miguel Sano came to big league camp this spring, but in the team’s first scrimmage, an off-balance throw hurt his elbow. He had Tommy John surgery a week later. He is recovering in Ft. Myers. He will not play in the Instructional League, the Arizona Fall League or the first half of the Dominican Winter League. He may play in the second half of the DWL in an attempt to be ready for spring training.
#3 – Alex Meyer – Right-Handed Pitcher
Meyer has actually remained healthy throughout this season. However, he missed two months last year with a shoulder injury. The goal for Meyer this year clearly is to get him through the season healthy while attempting to meet an innings limit. He has been held to just 75 pitches several times. However, getting him to 130 innings this season is a key. He should be able to get to 160 innings in 2015.
#4 – Kohl Stewart – Right-Handed Pitcher
Stewart was the Twins top pick just last year and spent the season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He was part of a six-man rotation. Through his first 17 starts, he posted a 2.42 ERA and opponents hit just .230 off of him. Unfortunately, shoulder soreness from a long bus ride to Lake County cost him a month, though nothing was found wrong structurally. He returned to action last week. As mentioned above, however, he left his start on Tuesday with more shoulder discomfort.
#5 – Eddie Rosario – Second Base/Outfield
Rosario has been healthy this year, but his development was slowed by his 50 game suspension to start the season due to a second failed test for a drug of abuse. He hasn’t hit real well, though he does have a bunch of doubles. He also missed four or five games last month for violating team rules. He may not have been injured, but he has been hurt by missed development time.
#6 – JO Berrios – Right-Handed Pitcher
There was no pitcher in the Twins organization, and maybe through minor league baseball, whose stock had risen this season as much as JO Berrios. He was a Florida State League all-star, started the Futures Game at Target Field and was promoted to AA New Britain. However, he left his fourth start with the Rock Cats due to shoulder stiffness. After evaluation, he was deemed fine. He skipped one start and has returned to the mound looking strong. Hopefully that was a short-term blip on the radar.
#7 – Josmil Pinto – Catcher/DH
Josmil Pinto made the Twins opening day roster, but he was relegated to the backup catcher role. When he performed, it was as a third catcher who was primarily DH'ing. In early June, he was optioned to Rochester. Late in the month, he suffered a hip injury and missed three weeks of play. He has returned and has, of late, been playing better.
#10 – Trevor May – Right-Handed Pitcher
May performed very well early in the season. In fact, many believed that he would be called up in late May or early July. He was named to the Futures Game, but he suffered a calf injury and ended up missing a month. When he returned, rain cost him one start and cut short another start to just three innings. However, he has now debuted with the Twins and despite early struggles, could be part of the Twins future rotation.
As you noticed, I skipped numbers nine and ten. Number eight was Jorge Polanco who has remained healthy and played well in Ft. Myers and in a recent promotion to New Britain, and even in two short stints with the Twins. Number nine was Lewis Thorpe who we expected to spend the season in Elizabethton, but he was promoted to Cedar Rapids in mid-June and has held his own.
However, other prospects have also been hurt and lost development time because of injury. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Max Kepler – Outfielder/First Baseman – The youngster from Germany has been on the disabled list a couple times this year for various reasons. He missed time last year with elbow issues and has missed time this year for a couple of reasons, including a serious case of strep throat.
- Mason Melotakis – Left-Handed Pitcher – Melotakis made the shift back to the bullpen this year in Ft. Myers and earned himself a promotion to New Britain. He missed two weeks with elbow inflammation. He returned to the mound on earlier this week.
- Zach Jones – Right-Handed Pitcher – In the offseason, Jones learned that he had an aneurysm in his right shoulder. He needed to have surgery. As he was recovering from that, doctors found a blood clot in his leg. He got to Ft. Myers in May and continued to rehab. He pitched in several games for the GCL Twins and earlier this week he returned to action with the Ft. Myers Miracle.
- Corey Williams – Left-Handed Pitcher – Williams suffered an elbow injury during spring training and had Tommy John surgery on April 1st.
- JT Chargois – Right-Handed Pitcher – The former 2nd round pick from Rice has been hurt since signing with the Twins. He rehabbed throughout the 2013 season before having Tommy John surgery last August.
- Luke Bard – Right-Handed Pitcher – Bard had a couple surgeries during 2013. In mid-May this year he had another surgery. According to Bard, he had a “latisimus reattachment and a teres major reattachment.” Basically the muscles between his scapula and his humerus were completely detached. Once in, doctors wondered how he was able to throw at all. He will likely be out until mid-2015.
- Yorman Landa – Right-Handed Pitcher – The hard-throwing righty began the season in Cedar Rapids’ bullpen. He was throwing very well in May, but he needed shoulder surgery and is out for the year.
- Randy Rosario – Left-Handed Pitcher – Rosario began the season in the Cedar Rapids starting rotation. Unfortunately, two of three starts into the season, he hurt his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.
- Fernando Romero – Right-Handed Pitcher – the 18-year-old came out of nowhere last year, hitting 96 mph. He began this season in extended spring, but he was called up to Cedar Rapids where he made a handful of starts. Unfortunately, he too experienced elbow pain and soon after had Tommy John surgery.
- Taylor Rogers – Left-Handed Pitcher – He was my choice for Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year last year. After an early struggle in AA, he has been very good. He did miss about three weeks with a biceps injury, but he has been good again in his return.
- DJ Baxendale – Right-Handed Pitcher – He has been hurt much of the year and struggled when healthy. He is currently pitching in a rehab stint in the GCL.
- Zack Larson – Outfielder – The 20-year-old began the season in Cedar Rapids and did well. In early May, he pulled his hamstring and did not start playing rehab games in the GCL for two months. After just a few games, he had a setback and missed another two weeks. He just returned to the Kernels this week.
- Brett Lee – Left-Handed Pitcher – He was named an all-star for Ft. Myers but shoulder discomfort kept him out of the game. He has returned and continued to pitch well.
- David Hurlbut - Left-Handed Pitcher - Like Lee, Hurlbut was a Florida State League All Star, but he has not made a start for the Miracle since June 2nd due to shoulder issues. He is rehabbing in the GCL now.
The disabled list time is just development time missed. It doesn’t necessarily affect prospect status.
So, what can be done?
That is a pretty open-ended question. I certainly don’t know. Injuries like Byron Buxton’s or Zack Larson’s are injuries incurred through baseball activities.
What about all of the pitcher injuries? There have been several Tommy John surgeries and even shoulder injuries. Is there something the Twins are doing wrong? It would seem to me that their rules regarding innings counts, pitch counts and such are pretty much the same as other organizations.
Is it bad luck? Are the arm injuries due to the Twins process? Should they pitch more? Could they possibly pitch less? What about in between starts?
I’m more and more developing the opinion that it is pretty much a 50/50 proposition that a pitcher will have some arm issues. The odds may even be worse.
Which is why I will continue to say that the Twins have just been snake-bitten this season. I have never seen anything like this, and hopefully this is a one-year thing and next year they won’t have as many injuries.