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2012 Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year

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It wasn't the best year for starting pitching in the Twins organization. Top pitching prospects like Alex Wimmers and Adrian Salcedo suffered through short seasons because of injuries. Kyle Gibson, the team's first round pick from 2010, spent most of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery and he will head to the Arizona Fall League to rack up some innings before the beginning of next season. The organization had to find other pitchers to fill roles with their clubs and this allowed for some surprise names to be included in the list for top starting pitchers in the Twins farm system.

In yesterday's post, I honored Michael Tonkin with my pick for the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. There were some close battles between a few players for the top spot on the list so make sure to check it out and leave a comment on who would make your ballot. Seth Stohs over at Twins Daily has been naming that sites picks for each of the awards across the minor leagues so head over there to check out his selections. Of course there will be some similarities between our selections but it's always fun to see how other writers will rank players for the seasons they compiled with the Twins.

So who came out on top when it came to the top season for a starting pitcher in the Twins system? In reverse order, here are my rankings for the 2012 Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year:

5.) Jason Wheeler: Beloit Snappers
Stat Summary: 14-6, 3.45 ERA, 156.2 IP, 115 SO, 43 BB, .218 Opp. Avg.
It was Wheeler's first season as a professional and he spent the entire year with the Beloit Snappers. He started the year off pitching very well by going 3-0 in April with a 2.33 ERA for the month. At the beginning of May, he won pitcher of the week for the Midwest League and he was eventually named to the Leagues All-Star Game in June. Mr. Wheeler was roughed up a little by the end of June to the tune of a 6.28 ERA in his six starts that month and his three losses were the most out of any month for the lefty. His record was the same in both halves of the season but his ERA was lower in the second half of the year. The 22-year old held his own in Beloit and it will be interesting to see how he fares in Fort Myers next season.

4.) Esmerling Vasquez: Rochester Red Wings
Stat Summary: 9-6, 2.78 ERA, 100.1 IP, 98 SO, 39 BB, .210 Opp. Avg.
Fans who have kept their eye on the Twins during the last couple of weeks have gotten a taste of Vasquez on the mound. Before he was pitching in Minnesota, he had put together a pretty good season for the Rochester Red Wings. The first two months of the season for Vasquez were spent as a relief pitcher at the Triple-A level. It wasn't until the end of June that the organization moved him from the bullpen to the starting rotation. As a starter, he posted a 4-2 record with a 2.93 ERA in eight games with one complete game under his belt. To get to this point in his career, Vasquez has gone through quite the ride and the 28-year old pitcher looked like a lifer in the minor leagues before 2012. His numbers in 2012 showed the Twins that he deserved a shot but it's hard to know what his future will be with the franchise.

3.) David Hurlbut: Beloit Snappers
Stat Summary: 6-6, 2.76 ERA, 111.0 IP, 85 SO, 25 BB, .249 Opp. Avg.
Much like Vasquez, Hulbut started the season as a relief option before being asked to move to the rotation. It was only the first month of the season for Hulbut in the bullpen but his 1.35 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 20.0 IP made it an easy choice to move him to the rotation. In three out of the five months of the season, Hurlbut had an ERA of under 2.00 and four of his six wins came during those months. He didn't see a lot of innings against lefties but southpaws only managed a .200 batting average against him. It would be nice to see him do a better job of limiting damage when he lets runners get on base but that doesn't take away from his good season in 2012. Hulbut was the team's 28th round pick from the 2011 draft and his performance will keep the club's focus on him for the coming years. The Twins need starting pitching and Hulbut might be a late round find from the draft.

2.) Liam Hendriks: Rochester Red Wings
Stat Summary: 9-3, 2.20 ERA, 106.1 IP, 82 SO, 28 BB, .201 Opp. Avg.
Hendriks, last year's minor league pitcher of the year for the Twins, could have won the award again if he hadn't of spent as much time at the big league level. With how well Hendriks has performed at the Triple-A level, it's hard to believe he hasn't won a game during his time in the major leagues. The Australian native shot through the Twins system last season and made his debut with the club in September. Due to some other situations with the starting staff, Hendriks started the year in the rotation for the Twins. It wasn't a successful trip back to the big league level so he was sent back to Rochester and things started to improve. He won pitcher of the week for the International League at the beginning of June and this lead to another call-up from the Twins. One of the best months of the season for Hendriks was August where he posted a 2-1 record with a 1.61 ERA over four starts. There is a good chance for Hendriks to spend all of next season in the starting rotation for the Twins.

1.) BJ Hermsen: Fort Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats
Stat Summary: 12-6, 2.88 ERA, 162.2 IP, 87 SO, 30 BB, .258 Opp. Avg.
Hermsen made it to the Fort Myers at the end of 2011 and that is where he started the 2012 campaign. He wouldn't stay long in the Florida State League as he made four starts and went 1-0 with a 0.78 ERA. Most of the damage done by Hermsen would take place in the Eastern League. He would finish second on the team in innings pitched and his best start of the year came in one of his last appearances of the year. On August 10, he took the mound against the Reading Phillies and he was very good over nine innings by striking out 10 and only allowing a single run. Over his last ten starts, he pitched at least five innings and allowed three earned runs or less in every outing. Hermsen was a sixth round pick of the Twins out of high school in 2008 and his performance this season might have put him in the long-term plans for the club. He will be 23-years old for all of next season and it might not be long before he is asked to debut for the Twins.
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