Yesterday, we named AJ Achter the 2012 Twins Daily Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. He was the best among a very strong cast of Twins minor league relievers. Today, we will name the Twins Daily 2012 Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.
Starting Pitching was clearly a huge issue at the big league level for the Twins. The Rochester Red Wings had a .500 season despite losing starter after starter to the Twins. There were some very solid performances by Twins starters in 2012. However, there are very few starters who have the ability to strike out many batters. You will see that with the below list of starters, but it is true throughout the organization. 2012 saw the return of Kyle Gibson from Tommy John surgery, but it was also a tough year for several starters. Alex Wimmers made just one start, rehabbed and then had midseason Tommy John surgery. Adrian Salcedo uncharacteristically struggled, got hit in the nose with a one-hopper, had elbow problems, came back and his season ended with shoulder issues. Tom Stuifbergen missed the first couple of months. It was a tough season for Twins starting pitchers throughout the organization.
But that should not take away from the success that several Twins minor league starters did have, and today, we recognize them. Feel free to debate them, or ask any questions:
Starting Pitcher of the Year
#6 – Matt Tomshaw – Beloit Snappers (4-6, 2.92 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 89.1 IP, 87 H, 17 BB, 67 K)
Tomshaw was the Twins 42nd round pick in 2011 out of Jacksonville Universit. After making 11 appearances for the GCL Twins, he moved across the parking lot in Ft. Myers and pitched in seven games for the Miracle. In 25.1 innings, he posted a 2.13 ERA. For his first full season, the Twins sent Tomshaw to the Snappers where he started the season in the bullpen. It wasn’t long before he started working out of the rotation. Blessed with a six-pitch mix, he also does a great job of mixing speeds. He has terrific control. In only one month this season (July), did Tomshaw have an ERA over 3.26.
#5 – David Hurlbut – Beloit Snappers (6-6, 2.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 111 IP, 105 H, 25 BB, 85 K)
Hurlbut was drafted by the Twins in the 35th round in 2009, but instead he decided to go to Cal-State Fullerton. In 2011, the Twins selected him again, this time in the 28th round. He pitched out of the bullpen in college, but in his two minor league seasons, he has primarily started. He posted a 1.35 ERA in ten games (20 innings) out of the bullpen in 2012. He walked two and struckout 20. As a starter (15 starts), he posted a 3.07 ERA. In 91 innings, he walked 23 and struckout 65. His future may be in the bullpen, but he did a nice job for the Snappers rotation in 2012.
#4 – Esmerling Vasquez – Rochester Red Wings (9-6, 2.78 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 100 IP, 74 H, 39 BB, 98 K)
In his two big league starts, Vasquez has been plagued with the same issue he had during his three years with the Diamondbacks, control. Vasquez made just eight starts with the Red Wings, and his season long outing came in a game PJ Walters started on a rehab. Vasquez came in with two outs in the first and didn’t leave until the ninth inning. As a starter, he was 4-2 with a 2.93 ERA. In 43 innings, he struck out 48 and walked just 14. From the bullpen, he threw 57.1 innings and walked 25 batters while striking out 50. Overall, opponents hit just .210 off of him and he was the most consistent performer, regardless of role, for the Red Wings. I couldn’t really put him any higher on a list of starting pitchers, and he wasn’t listed among the top relievers. However, don’t be surprised if the Twins name him as their minor league pitcher of the year.
#3 – Jason Wheeler – Beloit Snappers (14-6, 3.45 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 156 IP, 170 H, 43 BB, 115 K)
The former Northwoods League Pitcher of the Year was the Twins 8th round pick in 2011 out of Loyola Marymount. He didn’t sign until the deadline so his professional debut officially came in 2012 with the Beloit Snappers. He began by going 3-0 in April and followed it by going 3-1 in May. He did go through a rough patch in June, but he returned to form in July when he went 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and was the pitcher of the month. At 6-8 and 250 pounds, Wheeler can throw the ball on a downward plane. At this point, he tops out at 90 mph, but he mixes his pitches very well. He’ll give up some hits, but he knows how to pitch. However, only one pitcher in the Twins farm system threw more innings than the lefty did in 2012.
#2 – Liam Hendriks – Rochester Red Wings (9-3, 2.20 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 106 IP, 76 H, 28 BB, 82 K)
Hendriks won this award each of the past two seasons and a strong case could be made for him against in 2012. However, because of his regular stints with the Twins throughout the season, Hendriks only made 16 starts. However, he has little to prove in AAA after dominating the level this year. Coming into the season, he had only a handful of AAA starts before being thrust into the big leagues last September. In Rochester, Hendriks gave up few hits, and only five of those hits were home runs. Hendriks has nothing more to prove in AAA, and soon will need to turn the corner with the Twins. He has the pitches and the control. He just needs to get win number one!
Starting Pitcher of the Year – BJ Hermsen – Ft. Myers Miracle / New Britain Rock Cats (12-6, 2.82 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 162 IP, 161 H, 30 BB, 87 K)
Liam Hendriks was my choice for Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2010 and 2011. BJ Hermsen finished in second in 2011. Hendriks was good again in the minors in 2012, but Hermsen was very good and threw 50 more innings. Hermsen was the pitcher of the month in April when he went 1-0 with a 0.78 ERA in four starts with Ft. Myers. He moved up to New Britain and was again the pitcher of the month in May pitching for the Rock Cats. He struggled in June, but he was 4-1 in July and 3-1 in August. He was remarkably consistent, posting a 3.27 in the first half and a 3.16 ERA in the second half. Although he struckout just 4.8 per nine innings, he struck out three for every batter he walked. The 6-6 right-hander will be an interesting case. Will the Twins add him to the 40 man roster or subject him to the Rule 5 draft?
Twins Daily had the chance to catch up with BJ Hermsen over the weekend and ask a couple of questions:
What does being named the 2012 Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year mean to you?
BJ Hermsen: “I would say this is more of a team award for me than it is an individual award. I’ve said many times before that I’m a guy that depends on my defense quite a bit and it makes it easier when you have lots of trust in your defense. That was obviously the case again this year. The rest of the guys that you had listed were very much worthy of winning this award as well. I appreciate it very much.”
What did he work on or develop that helped him in 2012?
BJ Hermsen: “I think adding the cutter last offseason helped quite a bit. It’s another pitch that hitters have to worry about. I'm always trying to learn more and more about the game and how to go about hitters.”
Talk a little about the 2012 New Britain Rock Cats who still had a chance to make the playoffs on the season’s final day.
BJ Hermsen: “I thought being around those guys was an absolute blast. We had a bit of a rough stretch there with about 3 weeks to go in the season, but the way we responded the last couple weeks was nice to see. We put ourselves in a position to force a playoff game that last day and did we had to do, but it just didn’t work out. The chemistry was great and being able to go to the park every day was always fun knowing these guys were there.”
Feel free to discuss.