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Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month - June

It’s hard to believe that the baseball season has completed three months already. As we enter July, it’s time to take a look at the top hitters, starting pitchers and relief pitchers in the Minnesota Twins minor league system during June. We will start with the relief pitchers. In May, there were not many strong bullpen performances, but in June things were much better.

About one year ago, Michael Tonkin and AJ Achter were working out of the bullpen in Beloit. [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
They both pitched (and dominated) the second half of the 2012 season in Ft. Myers. I selected Achter narrowly over Tonkin as my 2012 Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. This year, they both began their season in New Britain. Tonkin moved up to Rochester at the end of May, and Achter will now join him with the Red Wings as July begins. The 24-year-old Achter was the Twins 46th round pick in 2010 out of Michigan State. 23-year-old Tonkin was the Twins 30th round pick in 2008 out of high school in California. He was known as Jason Kubel’s brother-in-law until last year when he really made a name for himself. Both have put themselves in position to help a now-struggling Twins bullpen.

Attached Image: Michael Tonkin.jpg

Let’s get to the list. Here are my choices for the Top 5 Twins Minor League Relief Pitchers in June (starting with three Honorable Mentions):

  • Aaron Thompson (Rochester) – 12 G, 12.2 IP, 1-0, 2.84 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 11 H, 2 BB, 12 K
  • AJ Achter (New Britain) – 8 G, 10.0 IP, 1-0, 0.90 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 9 H, 4 BB, 11 K
  • Tim Atherton (Cedar Rapids) – 6 G (1 GS), 13.0 IP, 1-0, 1.38 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 7 H, 8 BB, 12 K

Number 5 – Ft. Myers – RHP Zack Jones - 6 G, 1.23 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 7.1 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 13 K

Jones has been on this list in the first two months. He was the Reliever of the Month in April. Last month, he made the list despite walking a batter per inning. We all know that Jones throws very hard, reaching into the upper 90s with his fastball. He is working diligently on his slider and it is a very important pitch for him. In limited duty in June, he did improve his control while striking out nearly two batters per inning.

Number 4 – Rochester – RHP Luis Perdomo - 9 G, 2.30 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 15.2 IP, 9 H, 7 BB, 12 K

The 29-year-old right-hander has a 4.60 ERA on the season, but as you can see, he was solid in June. Still too many walks, but he did well in a lot of innings for the Red Wings. He was able to limit base runners. Will he get another shot with the Twins this season? It’s possible, but he’ll have to be better yet.

Number 3 – Ft. Myers – LHP Jose Gonzalez - 6 G, 2.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 9.0 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 12 K

Gonzalez began the season in New Britain but was sent back to the Miracle after posting a 6.20 ERA in 16 appearances. In his first month with the Miracle, he was very good. He gave up few hits, walked only one and struck out 12. He is a fastball/slider guy who, despite not being real tall, has a chance to move up. He has been in the organization since 2007 and is still just 23 years old.

Number 2 – Ft. Myers – Steven Gruver - 7 G, 1.29 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 14.0 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 12 K

Gruver just turned 24 over the weekend. He remains in Cedar Rapids despite pitching pretty well for Beloit a year ago. He’s been very, very good out of the Kernels bullpen again this year. He was named to the Midwest League All-Star game. The left-hander just did not allow many base runners in June. He shows very good control and the ability to miss bats when needed.

And the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is:

Rochester Red Wings – Michael Tonkin - 8 G, 0.00 ERA, 0.51 WHIP, 11.2 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 11 K

For the second straight June, Tonkin is the Reliever of the Month. He very easily could have been the Pitcher of the Month in June, as well. Back in May, in AA, he posted a 0.00 ERA and in 12.1 innings he walked three and struck out 20. Tonkin throws hard and gets sink. He induces a lot of ground balls and also gets lots of strikeouts. It may not be very long before we get to see Tonkin at Target Field.

So what do you think? I’ve listed several relievers here that deserve be recognized for their terrific performances this past month. Who would your choice be? How would you rank these guys (and feel free to include others)?

Be sure to check back later for the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher and Hitter of the Month of June.

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