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Gabbin' Grapefruit: Terry Doyle

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La Valle had a good piece on Rule 5 pick Terry Doyle at the Strib today. The 26-year-old right-hander discussed some his route to the Twins organization, listening in on Internet radio at his home in Warwick, Rhode Island when he found out that Minnesota had drafted him.

For their part, the Twins were impressed with Doyle’s performance in the Arizona Fall League in which he went while in the Chicago system and, as Neal writes, “Doyle he was dominant at times while going 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA in eight starts for the Mesa Solar Sox.” With their scouts on hand, Twins GM Terry Ryan told Neal that they were impressed by Doyle’s repertoire:

"He threw a lot of strikes, and he has a lot of energy. He's a big, strong guy. He's got plenty of fastball. He can spin the ball, he can slow it down. He's not afraid. He looks durable. Yeah, I did see him and I saw him quite well.”
Reaffirming the Twins scouting department’s belief in Doyle is Baseball America’s JJ Cooper assessment. Heading into the Rule 5 draft, Cooper wrote:

“He certainly understands the geometry of pitching, consistently getting outs with his command and a cut fastball. Doyle’s 88-92 fastball did pick up as the season progressed and he touched 93-94 mph in Arizona. Doyle confuses hitters who don’t know him, as he often pitches backward, using breaking pitches to set up his fastball. He throws four pitches for strikes, including a biting slider and a high-70s change up.”
Not to diminish the accolades of being anointed one of the league’s Rising Stars or what is perceived as solid stuff by Baseball America, Doyle’s small sample size dominance in the desert leaves some wondering if that was more enigmatic than breakthrough. After all, his batting average on balls in play was ridiculously low (.127) even for a workload of just under 30 innings. In a recent chat, ESPN.com’s prospect guru fielded a question regarding Doyle’s chances of being an impact player to which Law responded “[f]ringe guy. Don't see a big league role for him.”

Again, Doyle appears to be a smart pitcher – as alluded to by both Ryan and Cooper – and majored in math at Boston College. During an interview with Fangraphs.com’s irreplaceable David Laurila, Laurila asked the math major what, if any, can Doyle as a pitcher derive from applied statistics. To which, the pitchers said:

“Stats are always helpful, but there are some you don’t know how to change. You can’t change something like opponents‘-batting-average-on-balls-in-play. You look at it, and it’s helpful to know what it is, but at the same time you can’t really control how they hit the ball or what happens once they do. All you can do is throw the pitch. There are small alterations that you can make — small changes — but you can’t try to reinvent the wheel. You have to go with what you’ve been successful with, and for me that‘s been throwing strikes.”
Reading that interview, you understand why Doyle is what has become the archetypical Twins pitcher – he throws strikes and he lets his defense do the work. What’s more is that he understands his limitations. He doesn’t have a devastating fastball but incorporates a cutter to provide a variety of movement. As Cooper said, he will use his secondary stuff early in the count to keep opponents off-balanced. Perhaps most important, he pounds the strike zone with all four offerings. This method has led to high ground ball rates and low walk-rates.

Doyle’s road to Minnesota may be filled with plenty of hurdles this spring but, if he gets there, you can certainly envision him thriving in the organization’s pitching system.

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