Twins Daily Roundtable: Prospect Promotions
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (Stephen Gonsalves)Nick Nelson
There are a number of guys I'd love to see before year's end. But if we're talking about who is most deserving, I think the answer is Brent Rooker. Although he's only about 14 months removed from being drafted, the slugger has emphatically addressed some of his biggest perceived flaws — namely, plate discipline. Rooker's approach was a mess in the early going this year, evidenced by a 29% K-rate and 5% BB-rate in April/May, but he has gradually refined it, improving those rates to 25% and 13% respectively since the start of June. Meanwhile, he has posted some of the best numbers of anyone in the system.
Despite his relatively recent arrival in the organization, Rooker turns 24 in the offseason so he's not especially young by prospect standards. He has handled every challenge thrown his way thus far. Because he's a right-handed power hitter who can play first base and the outfield corners, he's also a good fit for Minnesota's short-term needs. Why not give him a shot down the stretch and see how he responds? A strong debut would potentially put him in line to grab a roster spot out of spring training next year.
There are a lot of different ways this question could be answered, and a lot of different names that could be thrown out there, but I'm going to go with urgency. The Twins need to take a look at the prospects they've already got on their 40-man roster. Even narrowing things down that way leaves you with no shortage of options, especially pitchers, but I'm going to go with Fernando Romero (even though he doesn’t qualify as a prospect any more).
Romero looked pretty capable in the 11 starts the Twins have given him in the majors this season, and he's been very solid in his first crack at Triple A as well. He hasn't shown the dominating stuff he's flashed throughout parts of his career, recording 97 strikeouts in 125 1/3 innings, but he's still been effective, boasting a 3.59 ERA and 1.24 WHIP between the majors and minors this year.
Speaking of that 125 1/3 innings, that marks a new career high already for Fernando. I was concerned about how he faded to end last year, but as long as there isn't a dip in velo or breakdown in his mechanics I'd like to see the Twins push him a bit farther this season. There are some other starting pitching prospects who deserve looks -- Zack Littell, Stephen Gonsalves and maybe even Lewis Thorpe -- but I think the guy most likely to stake his claim on a 2019 rotation spot is Romero. Might as well give him an opportunity to show whether or not he belongs.
Stephen Gonsalves seems to be on quite the run in the minor leagues and it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets the opportunity to join the rotation in the coming weeks. He has been one of the strongest starting pitchers in the organization over the last handful of years and I feel like he has earned the opportunity to make his debut. For me, he is the answer to this week’s question.
That being said, there are other names that will likely get some innings and at-bats before September ends. Rochester and Chattanooga don’t look like they will be qualifying for postseason play so players from those levels can be called-up for September. Recently acquired Tyler Austin could get some late season at-bats. Zack Littell could get a start or two.
Some other relief pitchers also need the opportunity to show they can be part of next year’s pitching staff. Either way, there are plays to be watching over the next month and a half.
Assuming Stephen Gonsalves is a given, because he absolutely should be, I think Brent Rooker has emerged as a serious candidate. Earlier in the year it looked like Nick Gordon had earned a shot to show what he could do in a brief stint, but that time has come and gone. Gordon is struggling mightily at Triple-A, and it would be a shock if he's the Opening Day option at 2B in 2019.
Rooker has destroyed Double-A pitching, and has been deserving of a promotion for at least a month. If the Twins are willing to get aggressive, allowing him an opportunity for September at bats would be plenty fair. I still believe he should factor into the 1B/DH conversation for 2019, and allowing him to taste that level this season could be a nice boost.
Stephen Gonsalves. He's earned the opportunity and finding innings in September should be easy. Gonsalves is the type of pitcher that should project for 200+ innings and allowing him to continue to pitch after the conclusion of the minor league season makes too much sense. Plus, like I mentioned earlier, he has earned it.
It would almost have to be either Nick Gordon or Stephen Gonsalves, I think, and for me the pick would he Gonsalves. He’s simply had a better season than Gordon has.
The problem could be finding a spot in the rotation for him. If Ervin Santana were to be traded, that could free a spot. While I suppose bringing him up for a look out of the bullpen would be possible, that wouldn’t seem to be either fair or reflective of his talent, given that he’s always been a starting pitcher.
Of course, the guys who “deserve” a late season promotion don’t always get one. Other factors, such as 40-man roster spots and other non-performance related factors usually take precedence over “deservedness.”
There are a plenty of guys I would love to see make at least some September call-up appearances, including the likes of LaMonte Wade, Nick Gordon, Nick Anderson, Jake Reed, and Kohl Stewart. I also think Brent Rooker has worked himself into that conversation with the tear he's been on at double-A.
But I think the only clear answer here is Stephen Gonsalves. Quite frankly, he's been deserving of that for quite some time already. He's now in his sixth season with the organization, and has performed at every stop. He has 20 starts to his ledger in triple-A (plus two other appearances) and that has come with an 8-5 record, 3.57 ERA, .216 batting average against, and 103 K's in 111 total innings pitched. These are better numbers than the likes of the Zack Littell's, Aaron Sleger's, and Adalberto Mejia's that have gotten their opportunities before him. I've also thought the Twins have moved him in a notoriously slow fashion considering the numbers he has put up, so he should have already been in the majors by now in my opinion.
Deserving is kind of a loaded word. I would love to see a lot of guys get a chance down the stretch. Stephen Gonsalves and Fernando Romero are both ready for an opportunity and deserving. While Brent Rooker's last two-and-a-half months have been terrific, the Twins have to make a decision on Tyler Austin this offseason, and maybe into spring training. LaMonte Wade has had a solid season. He is now injured, but he's deserving.
But I'm going lump together a group of players, some are technically "prospects" and a few have surpassed the prospect status. But Alan Busenitz, Tyler Duffey and John Curtiss deserve the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues after they were strong the first three months of the year. They're all on the 40-man roster. Also, Nick Anderson and Jake Reed are quite deserving as well. Anderson was the best minor league reliever through the first two months of the season, and he had a solid July again. Reed struggled early, but he's been really good the last couple of months. And, Luke Bard has had ups and downs, but he can become a free agent at the end of the year, so I would like to see him get a shot with the Twins as well. How do you get six deserving guys to the big leagues? You can't, but they are all deserving.
If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links:
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Baseball in 2028
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