Minnesota Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month - April
As we have done in past years, aside from just picking the top pitcher, we’ll count down the top five performers for the month. It’s always nice when we have a few extra strong performers. This month, ranking the pitchers was difficult. There were a lot of strong, solid performers, so feel free to discuss the rankings and even comment with your own rankings or thoughts.
With that, let's jump to the starting pitchers. Here are the Top 5 starting pitchers for April:
Number 5 – Rochester – Kris Johnson - 4 GS, 2-2, 2.86 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 22.0 IP, 18 H, 18 BB, 20 K
On Thursday night, Kris Johnson will make his Minnesota Twins debut. In 2013, he made his big league debut and pitched in four games for the Pittsburgh Pirates including one start. He came to the Twins this offseason in a trade with the Pirates in exchange for reliever Duke Welker (remember the Duke Welker-Twins Era?). His 2.39 ERA for Louisville last year led the International League, and he is off to a strong start in 2014. In his first start, he threw five shutout innings, allowing just two hits. In his most recent start (last Thursday), he gave up only an unearned run in six innings. The left-hander sits 91-92 with his fastball and has a good three-pitch mix.
Number 4 – Ft. Myers – Brett Lee - 5 GS, 3-1, 2.93 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 30.2 IP, 31 H, 7 BB, 15 K
Following last season, Lee was my pick for the pitcher to take a big step forward as a prospect in 2014. The 23-year-old put together a solid first month of the season. If nothing else, he was very consistent. He gave up two earned runs in all five of his starts. In these games, he went 5.2 innings, then six, six, six and seven innings. The lefty was the Twins 10th round pick in 2010 out of junior college. In 2012 at Elizabethton, he posted a 2.68 ERA. In 2013 in Cedar Rapids, he posted a 2.95 ERA. So, Mr. Consistent’s 2.93 ERA in April shouldn’t be too surprising.
Number 3 – Cedar Rapids – Aaron Slegers - 5 GS, 2-0, 3.14 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 28.2 IP, 24 H, 4 BB, 27 K
The 6-10 Slegers was the Twins 5th round pick just last year out of the University of Indiana where he was the 2013 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. After a very solid performance in Elizabethton last summer, Slegers was the Kernels’ Opening Day starter. Since signing, Slegers has been able to add a little bit of velocity. He’s got pitches, and he’s got really good control. He doesn’t walk batters, and he was able to get strikeouts as well. If he can continue this for another month, he will likely move up to the Miracle.
Number 2 – Rochester – Alex Meyer - 5 GS, 1-0, 2.70 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 26.2 IP, 11 H, 11 BB, 35 K
Maybe you’ve heard or read a lot about Alex Meyer in the last couple weeks. The 24-year-old Meyer came to the Twins for Denard Span. He’s tall. He sits 95-96 and hits 99 and even 100. He has a devastating slider. And now he's learned a new changeup grip from Yohan Pino and Deolis Guerra. He’s got Ace upside. He has been really good in four of his five starts. He had a clunker in his third, but in his last two starts, he has been absolutely dominant. He’s got things to work on, but he can be very special.
I asked Dan Rohlfing, the talented catcher who caught those last two starts about Meyer, and here’s what he had to say: “Alex is electric! There’s definitely not many guys who can do what he does with a baseball. It’s awesome to watch him go from a thrower to a pitcher. He is really starting to figure a lot of things out. By him learning (and trusting) to pitch inside and developing a quality change-up makes him that much more dangerous. We all know his curveball is filthy, and it’s becoming much more consistent as well. By him being a three-pitch pitcher now, who knows how to mix it up, makes it extremely unfair for hitters. His last two outings were dominant, to say the least.”
And the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is:
Rochester – Logan Darnell - 4 GS, 0-0, 1.69 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 21.1 IP, 15 H, 7 BB, 21 K
Logan Darnell was the team’s 6th round pick in the 2010 draft out of the University of Kentucky where he was a teammate of Alex Meyer. He pitched at three levels in 2011 (Beloit, Ft. Myers and New Britain). He spent all of 2012, and the first two-thirds of the 2013 with the Rock Cats. He ended last season with 12 starts in Rochester. Following the season, he was added to the 40-man roster and this spring he reported for his first major league camp. He was one of the first cuts, but he was able to stretch out and be ready for the start of the season. In his first start, he worked four innings and gave up only an unearned run. He’s given up just four earned runs over 17.1 innings in his other three starts. He has been consistent, and he’s started getting strikeouts for the first time in his career.
Last June, following his promotion to AAA, he talked to Twins Daily about what he throws, what he’s learned, pitching in the Arizona Fall League and much more.
There were a lot of very good starting pitching performances in April. It was difficult to rank the five above, and here are a few more starters who were strongly considered:
[*=1]Pat Dean – New Britain – 5 GS, 25.2 IP, 2-1, 3.51 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 27 H, 7 BB, 20 K
[*=1]Jason Wheeler – Ft. Myers – 5 GS, 30.0 IP, 2-1, 2.70 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 32 H, 7 BB, 14 K
[*=1]Tyler Duffey – Ft. Myers – 4 GS, 22.1 IP, 3-0, 2.82 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 22 H, 5 BB, 13 K
[*=1]Ethan Mildren – Cedar Rapids – 4 G, 3 GS, 18.0 IP, 0-1, 2.50 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 17 H, 2 BB, 18 K
We’ll be back tomorrow to discuss the Relief Pitcher and Hitter of the Month. Please feel free to comment and ask questions.