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Article: Injuries Have Hurt Prospects' Development

byron buxton miguel sano kohl stewart alex meyer jose berrios
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#1 Seth Stohs

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 01:04 AM

On Tuesday night, Cedar Rapids Kernels right-handed pitcher Kohl Stewart was removed from the game in the 2nd inning due to recurring shoulder soreness. It was later deemed “precautionary.”

However, a recurring theme of the 2014 Minnesota Twins minor league season has been injuries. A player being removed mid-game due to injury has happened on several occasions throughout the season. Unfortunately, the injury bug has bitten most of the Twins top prospects over the last two seasons.Let’s take a look at the Twins Daily Top 10 Prospects coming into the 2014 season.

#1 Byron Buxton – Outfielder

Baseball’s top prospect has seemingly been snakebitten in 2014. In mid-March, he dove for a ball in centerfield and hurt his wrist. He missed two months. He returned in early in May. However, five games into his return, he slid, feet-first, and reinjured the same wrist. He missed two more months. He returned in mid-July, and in his eighth game back, he was hit by a pitch in the other wrist and missed another week. As you know, a week ago he was promoted to New Britain. In his first game, he collided with right fielder Mike Kvasnicka and while there were no broken bones, he had a concussion and will not play again this season. The team is hopeful he can participate in the Instructional League and the Arizona Fall League.

#2 – Miguel Sano – Third Baseman

Miguel Sano came to big league camp this spring, but in the team’s first scrimmage, an off-balance throw hurt his elbow. He had Tommy John surgery a week later. He is recovering in Ft. Myers. He will not play in the Instructional League, the Arizona Fall League or the first half of the Dominican Winter League. He may play in the second half of the DWL in an attempt to be ready for spring training.

#3 – Alex Meyer – Right-Handed Pitcher

Meyer has actually remained healthy throughout this season. However, he missed two months last year with a shoulder injury. The goal for Meyer this year clearly is to get him through the season healthy while attempting to meet an innings limit. He has been held to just 75 pitches several times. However, getting him to 130 innings this season is a key. He should be able to get to 160 innings in 2015.

#4 – Kohl Stewart – Right-Handed Pitcher

Stewart was the Twins top pick just last year and spent the season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He was part of a six-man rotation. Through his first 17 starts, he posted a 2.42 ERA and opponents hit just .230 off of him. Unfortunately, shoulder soreness from a long bus ride to Lake County cost him a month, though nothing was found wrong structurally. He returned to action last week. As mentioned above, however, he left his start on Tuesday with more shoulder discomfort.

#5 – Eddie Rosario – Second Base/Outfield

Rosario has been healthy this year, but his development was slowed by his 50 game suspension to start the season due to a second failed test for a drug of abuse. He hasn’t hit real well, though he does have a bunch of doubles. He also missed four or five games last month for violating team rules. He may not have been injured, but he has been hurt by missed development time.

#6 – JO Berrios – Right-Handed Pitcher

There was no pitcher in the Twins organization, and maybe through minor league baseball, whose stock had risen this season as much as JO Berrios. He was a Florida State League all-star, started the Futures Game at Target Field and was promoted to AA New Britain. However, he left his fourth start with the Rock Cats due to shoulder stiffness. After evaluation, he was deemed fine. He skipped one start and has returned to the mound looking strong. Hopefully that was a short-term blip on the radar.

#7 – Josmil Pinto – Catcher/DH

Josmil Pinto made the Twins opening day roster, but he was relegated to the backup catcher role. When he performed, it was as a third catcher who was primarily DH'ing. In early June, he was optioned to Rochester. Late in the month, he suffered a hip injury and missed three weeks of play. He has returned and has, of late, been playing better.

#10 – Trevor May – Right-Handed Pitcher

May performed very well early in the season. In fact, many believed that he would be called up in late May or early July. He was named to the Futures Game, but he suffered a calf injury and ended up missing a month. When he returned, rain cost him one start and cut short another start to just three innings. However, he has now debuted with the Twins and despite early struggles, could be part of the Twins future rotation.

EVEN MORE

As you noticed, I skipped numbers nine and ten. Number eight was Jorge Polanco who has remained healthy and played well in Ft. Myers and in a recent promotion to New Britain, and even in two short stints with the Twins. Number nine was Lewis Thorpe who we expected to spend the season in Elizabethton, but he was promoted to Cedar Rapids in mid-June and has held his own.

However, other prospects have also been hurt and lost development time because of injury. Here’s a quick rundown:
  • Max Kepler – Outfielder/First Baseman – The youngster from Germany has been on the disabled list a couple times this year for various reasons. He missed time last year with elbow issues and has missed time this year for a couple of reasons, including a serious case of strep throat.
  • Mason Melotakis – Left-Handed Pitcher – Melotakis made the shift back to the bullpen this year in Ft. Myers and earned himself a promotion to New Britain. He missed two weeks with elbow inflammation. He returned to the mound on earlier this week.
  • Zach Jones – Right-Handed Pitcher – In the offseason, Jones learned that he had an aneurysm in his right shoulder. He needed to have surgery. As he was recovering from that, doctors found a blood clot in his leg. He got to Ft. Myers in May and continued to rehab. He pitched in several games for the GCL Twins and earlier this week he returned to action with the Ft. Myers Miracle.
  • Corey Williams – Left-Handed Pitcher – Williams suffered an elbow injury during spring training and had Tommy John surgery on April 1st.
  • JT Chargois – Right-Handed Pitcher – The former 2nd round pick from Rice has been hurt since signing with the Twins. He rehabbed throughout the 2013 season before having Tommy John surgery last August.
  • Luke Bard – Right-Handed Pitcher – Bard had a couple surgeries during 2013. In mid-May this year he had another surgery. According to Bard, he had a “latisimus reattachment and a teres major reattachment.” Basically the muscles between his scapula and his humerus were completely detached. Once in, doctors wondered how he was able to throw at all. He will likely be out until mid-2015.
  • Yorman Landa – Right-Handed Pitcher – The hard-throwing righty began the season in Cedar Rapids’ bullpen. He was throwing very well in May, but he needed shoulder surgery and is out for the year.
  • Randy Rosario – Left-Handed Pitcher – Rosario began the season in the Cedar Rapids starting rotation. Unfortunately, two of three starts into the season, he hurt his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.
  • Fernando Romero – Right-Handed Pitcher – the 18-year-old came out of nowhere last year, hitting 96 mph. He began this season in extended spring, but he was called up to Cedar Rapids where he made a handful of starts. Unfortunately, he too experienced elbow pain and soon after had Tommy John surgery.
  • Taylor Rogers – Left-Handed Pitcher – He was my choice for Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year last year. After an early struggle in AA, he has been very good. He did miss about three weeks with a biceps injury, but he has been good again in his return.
  • DJ Baxendale – Right-Handed Pitcher – He has been hurt much of the year and struggled when healthy. He is currently pitching in a rehab stint in the GCL.
  • Zack Larson – Outfielder – The 20-year-old began the season in Cedar Rapids and did well. In early May, he pulled his hamstring and did not start playing rehab games in the GCL for two months. After just a few games, he had a setback and missed another two weeks. He just returned to the Kernels this week.
  • Brett Lee – Left-Handed Pitcher – He was named an all-star for Ft. Myers but shoulder discomfort kept him out of the game. He has returned and continued to pitch well.
  • David Hurlbut - Left-Handed Pitcher - Like Lee, Hurlbut was a Florida State League All Star, but he has not made a start for the Miracle since June 2nd due to shoulder issues. He is rehabbing in the GCL now.
There have been other injuries in the Twins farm system. To be fair, there have also been a lot of very good performances that are certainly encouragement.

The disabled list time is just development time missed. It doesn’t necessarily affect prospect status.

So, what can be done?

That is a pretty open-ended question. I certainly don’t know. Injuries like Byron Buxton’s or Zack Larson’s are injuries incurred through baseball activities.

What about all of the pitcher injuries? There have been several Tommy John surgeries and even shoulder injuries. Is there something the Twins are doing wrong? It would seem to me that their rules regarding innings counts, pitch counts and such are pretty much the same as other organizations.

Is it bad luck? Are the arm injuries due to the Twins process? Should they pitch more? Could they possibly pitch less? What about in between starts?
I’m more and more developing the opinion that it is pretty much a 50/50 proposition that a pitcher will have some arm issues. The odds may even be worse.

Which is why I will continue to say that the Twins have just been snake-bitten this season. I have never seen anything like this, and hopefully this is a one-year thing and next year they won’t have as many injuries.

Any suggestions?

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#2 Paul Pleiss

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 02:28 AM

That's a lot of DL time for a lot of guys. My only argument is with Meyer being on an innings limit for 2015. Okay, the Twins want to limit his innings this season to 130, but he shouldn't be under another innings limit next season. He'll be a full season removed from injury and should be allowed to pitch as many innings as he's needed.

 

If the Twins do intend to hold him back next season, I hope they plan smartly and decide to skip a mid-season start here or there so that he remains available until the season has run it's course, rather than be forced to shut him down early. He needs to pitch and pitch and pitch.

 

It seems that the best way to predict injuries is to look for guys who have been injured before. I'm not sure that pitch counts and innings limits keep a pitcher any healthier than not having them. But I also understand that you can't let a young guy out there throw 130+ pitches. Innings limits are silly to me, tired innings are tough on a pitcher, but a six pitch inning and a 25 pitch inning count the same in an annual innings limit. A better metric has to be available, I just don't know where to look.

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#3 hybridbear

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 06:44 AM

That's a lot of DL time for a lot of guys. My only argument is with Meyer being on an innings limit for 2015. Okay, the Twins want to limit his innings this season to 130, but he shouldn't be under another innings limit next season. He'll be a full season removed from injury and should be allowed to pitch as many innings as he's needed.

 

If the Twins do intend to hold him back next season, I hope they plan smartly and decide to skip a mid-season start here or there so that he remains available until the season has run it's course, rather than be forced to shut him down early. He needs to pitch and pitch and pitch.

 

It seems that the best way to predict injuries is to look for guys who have been injured before. I'm not sure that pitch counts and innings limits keep a pitcher any healthier than not having them. But I also understand that you can't let a young guy out there throw 130+ pitches. Innings limits are silly to me, tired innings are tough on a pitcher, but a six pitch inning and a 25 pitch inning count the same in an annual innings limit. A better metric has to be available, I just don't know where to look.

I like many of the points you make.

 

To protect their young arms the Twins could consider going with a 6-man rotation next year. Having a 6-man rotation should allow each starter to throw more innings in each start. The Twins also have a few bullpen arms like Deduno who can do pretty well throwing 3+ innings in relief when needed.

 

I also think that instead of an innings limit the pitchers should be on a pitch count limit. It seems that right now some of the young starters are on a pitch count limit in games, getting pulled after 75, 90, 100 pitches, regardless of how the game is going. If you have a starter like Meyer who the Twins are trying to protect, maybe you say that you want him to make 30 starts at 100 pitches each for 3000 total game pitches for the season. 160 innings at about 5.5 innings per start would mean 29 or 30 starts for Meyer. So why not look at it from a pitch count perspective. Innings are important too, since each inning started results in extra warm-up pitches, but I think that pitch count should also be part of the equation.


#4 sorney

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 06:59 AM

I guess I don't understand why Meyers isn't up with the Twins, innings limit or not.  If he is going to pitch up to an innings limit, I much rather see him take some lumps now with a club going nowhere, than going into next year, at age 25, and still having never thrown a pitch in MLB....the team isn't going anywhere, so what if he struggles....

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#5 Shane Wahl

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 07:33 AM

I didn't know that about Landa, R. Rosario, and F. Romero!!!


#6 Tibs

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 08:12 AM

In my mind, if it is a 50/50 proposition that pitchers are going to have arm issues, then we are doing something wrong. Not just the Twins, but every team.

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#7 Seth Stohs

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 08:21 AM

In my mind, if it is a 50/50 proposition that pitchers are going to have arm issues, then we are doing something wrong. Not just the Twins, but every team.

 

You're right... and it seems as if it's come to that... (maybe it's actually 20/80, or 15/85, but it's a lot.


#8 JB_Iowa

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 08:28 AM

1.  Unless you do a detailed comparison with other systems, it is hard to say if the Twins are "snake-bitten".

 

2.  Need a detailed analysis of training methods.

 

3.  As much as I was appalled by the way Houston handled the draft, I did take one thing away from it.  The Astros (and other teams) are using advanced analysis to predict possible future medical issues -- how much are the Twins doing on this front?

 

I'm tired of the whining about injuries. Poor me, poor me.  I want to know what the Twins are DOING about it because I don't buy purely "bad luck". 

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#9 twinsfan34

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 08:58 AM

I've been reading a few old books, mostly interviews of great pitchers as I am putting together historic rosters for a PS3 game called MLB 14:The Show and so I am researching all the pitch types - what did Addie Joss through? What did Herb Score & Sam McDowell throw? How about Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax? Bill James & Roby Neyer's Guide to Pitchers has been incredible helpful - an interesting book/read if you want to know who had the best particular pitch over historical periods and all-time. 

 

All that to say, my research and study has led to many interviews where pitchers pretty much said they had 'this pitch' or 'that pitch' and the like...'from God' or 'the baseball Gods' or 'I was just meant to pitch'. And it would seem to fall in line with the number of injuries. Some just are blessed with the physical body to be a pitcher - arguably the hardest action on any professional athlete. 

 

The other thing I noticed was that most pitchers didn't throw a curveball or their screwballs or any thing with heavy wrist action but maybe 5-15 pitches a game. It was mostly a 'hop ball' (rising FB) or a 'heavy fastball' (sinker) or a what we know today as a cut fastball as well as lots of changeups to palmballs. We also saw a LOT of knuckleball pitchers. The curveballs, sliders, screwballs, etc were mostly used 'only as needed' type of scenarios - up until Sandy Koufax and Bert Blyleven types. JR Richard and others would throw slider, slider, slider, fastball, slider, slider, fastball, slider, slider....done at age 30. 

 

Then the 80's we see Roger Craig and others put a greater emphasis on splitters and forkballs and sliders and so forth. There were mostly rotator cuff injuries before, but not, the elbow injuries are becoming more and more prominent (more so than shoulder injuries even). 

 

That said - baseball is becoming a pitcher's game. How many arms will teams need though? Will a MLB team need 20-25 pitchers per year to get through a season, as injuries would take their toll each year with the idea of having to have pitchers with great sliders, curves, etc. (heavy wrist action pitches)

 

The trick, I guess, would be if we run out of arms - e.g. not enough pitchers to meet that 20-25 pitchers per club needed?

 

Versus having a team of 12-16 pitchers who have command, offspeed, cutters, fastballs, and another non heavy wrist action types of pitchers?

 

Does the former (heavy wrist action pitchers) have enough supply and provide lower ERA (or opponent run production) than the latter? Most likely. So it's probably not good for individual pitchers, but would still be advantageous as it gets a better result in the box score. 

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#10 Steve Lein

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 08:59 AM

I hate the "innings limit" stuff, only because not all "innings" are created the same or as stressful.

 

Meyer has been pulled early several times in games he was cruising because of the "pitch limit" as well, which I don't agree with either.

 

They should be situational, not hard limits.

 

It's high pitch counts in an inning that are detrimental in my view.I like this analogy for it:If you go to a skeet-shooting range and are shooting a 12-guage, how does your shoulder feel if you fire 30 shots one-after-the other before stopping, compared to three sequences of 10 shots with breaks in between?The answer is your shoulder hurts like hell after 30, but is just fine with 3/10.

 

It's the same thing to me with pitching.If a guy's thrown, say 20/25 or more pitches in multiple innings already during a game, than I'd consider taking him out a bit early.That means he's been laboring some.But if he's been tossing 10/15 pitches per inning, and it's the start of the seventh (so he's at around 80 pitches), I don't understand the need to pull them like they've been doing.

 

Would this help at all with injuries?Who knows.But without looking at how they compare with other organizations, I'm not sure I'd label them as just "snakebitten" on the pitching front.

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#11 Brandon

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 09:18 AM

Most of the injuries listed were minor injuries lasting a few weeks.there were only a few that were season altering. 

 

Buxton and Sano,

 

Then Zach Jones, JT Chargrois (Chargrill), Luke Bard, Randy Rosario, and Fernando Romero. 

 

The rest of the injuries were of the few week variety so that happens.big deal. One of the injuries as a judgment injury that resulted in a 50 game suspension. 


#12 Seth Stohs

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 10:17 AM

I'm tired of the whining about injuries. Poor me, poor me.  I want to know what the Twins are DOING about it because I don't buy purely "bad luck". 

 

I don't think anyone is complaining. It's part of the  game and an unfortunate part. But now one is saying "Poor Me, Poor Me." It's unfortunate for the team and for the players and their development. 


#13 beckmt

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 10:23 AM

Interesting point about the injuries to pitchers, it seems like a lot of our better prospect pitchers are getting the injury bug.Some of this can be traced to high school/college were winning is extremely important and coaches tend to abuse pitchers to win.Some of this may require changes so young pitchers do not learn heavy stress pitches until at least the high school level. 

Would be interesting to compare the Twins prospect pitchers against other clubs. Hope someone is up to the task, would make interesting reading.


#14 jokin

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 10:45 AM

1.  Unless you do a detailed comparison with other systems, it is hard to say if the Twins are "snake-bitten".

 

2.  Need a detailed analysis of training methods.

 

3.  As much as I was appalled by the way Houston handled the draft, I did take one thing away from it.  The Astros (and other teams) are using advanced analysis to predict possible future medical issues -- how much are the Twins doing on this front?

 

I'm tired of the whining about injuries. Poor me, poor me.  I want to know what the Twins are DOING about it because I don't buy purely "bad luck". 

 

I don't know if it's specifically health/training-methodology-related, but the Twins have frequently drafted/traded for pitchers out of the same schools.  And perhaps the heavy emphasis on drafting all of these college RPs of late is also a reaction to the heightened risks in drafting the typical over-stressed college arm.

 

And it was well-documented that Stewart was heavily restricted from throwing his "out" pitch, the slider, this season.

Edited by jokin, 21 August 2014 - 10:47 AM.


#15 drjim

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 10:56 AM

I've been reading a few old books, mostly interviews of great pitchers as I am putting together historic rosters for a PS3 game called MLB 14:The Show and so I am researching all the pitch types - what did Addie Joss through? What did Herb Score & Sam McDowell throw? How about Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax? Bill James & Roby Neyer's Guide to Pitchers has been incredible helpful - an interesting book/read if you want to know who had the best particular pitch over historical periods and all-time. 

 

All that to say, my research and study has led to many interviews where pitchers pretty much said they had 'this pitch' or 'that pitch' and the like...'from God' or 'the baseball Gods' or 'I was just meant to pitch'. And it would seem to fall in line with the number of injuries. Some just are blessed with the physical body to be a pitcher - arguably the hardest action on any professional athlete. 

 

The other thing I noticed was that most pitchers didn't throw a curveball or their screwballs or any thing with heavy wrist action but maybe 5-15 pitches a game. It was mostly a 'hop ball' (rising FB) or a 'heavy fastball' (sinker) or a what we know today as a cut fastball as well as lots of changeups to palmballs. We also saw a LOT of knuckleball pitchers. The curveballs, sliders, screwballs, etc were mostly used 'only as needed' type of scenarios - up until Sandy Koufax and Bert Blyleven types. JR Richard and others would throw slider, slider, slider, fastball, slider, slider, fastball, slider, slider....done at age 30. 

 

Then the 80's we see Roger Craig and others put a greater emphasis on splitters and forkballs and sliders and so forth. There were mostly rotator cuff injuries before, but not, the elbow injuries are becoming more and more prominent (more so than shoulder injuries even). 

 

That said - baseball is becoming a pitcher's game. How many arms will teams need though? Will a MLB team need 20-25 pitchers per year to get through a season, as injuries would take their toll each year with the idea of having to have pitchers with great sliders, curves, etc. (heavy wrist action pitches)

 

The trick, I guess, would be if we run out of arms - e.g. not enough pitchers to meet that 20-25 pitchers per club needed?

 

Versus having a team of 12-16 pitchers who have command, offspeed, cutters, fastballs, and another non heavy wrist action types of pitchers?

 

Does the former (heavy wrist action pitchers) have enough supply and provide lower ERA (or opponent run production) than the latter? Most likely. So it's probably not good for individual pitchers, but would still be advantageous as it gets a better result in the box score. 

 

I don't know if this relates exactly to your study, but it seems that while elbow injuries are up that shoulder injuries are down. I don't think this is an accident. Training measures and usage patterns are moving in this way, as it is generally considered easier (though obviously not automatic) to recover from an elbow vs. a shoulder.

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#16 jharaldson

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 11:51 AM

I am going to challenge the list a little bit.If the point of the article is “a recurring theme of the 2014 Minnesota Twins minor league season has been injuries” then I think the list Seth presented is overly broad.Below is my assessment of injuries suffered in the 2014 season:

 

1. Buxton – Snakebit is the right term, the number of unrelated injuries is frustrating and has cost him the season.
2. Sano – Not injured in 2014.Injured in 2013 and continuing treatment.The spring training throw didn’t cause his elbow to blow out, it just exposed the 2013 injury was still there.
3. Meyer – Not injured 2014.
4. Stewart – Shoulder injury, 1 month, maybe more.
5. Rosario – Not injured 2014.
6. Berrios – Shoulder injury, 1 game
7. Pinto – Hip injury, 3 weeks
8. Polanco - Not injured 2014.
9. Thorpe – Not injured 2014.
10. May – Calf injury, 1 month.

 

If you told me that of our 10 ten guys that 5 would have suffer no injury in 2014, 4 would miss 1 month or less due to injury in 2014, and 1 guy would have awful luck I would have been happy with those numbers. 

Sometimes I think too much attention is paid to top 10 prospect lists and people will project the future like all 10 will make it.If we have 2 or 3 really good players, 2 or 3 role players, and the rest flame out then I will think this list looks pretty good.

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#17 Shack L Ford

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 12:12 PM

Terry Ryan is a genius! He'll fix it, even if it takes very long. We have to give him all the time in the world he needs.

#18 Dantes929

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 02:33 PM

The thing is, I think it is a 50/50 proposition (or whatever ratio) whether they are on innings limits for the season, pitch limits for a game or have no limits at all. As far as I can see Meyer has about the same chance for injury in his 2nd Spring Training start as he would in his 170th inning this year if he were allowed to go that far. Skip starts during the season if there is fatigue or other issues but the limits are just arbitrary and seem to have no effect. From all I have heard and read the Twins are as good as any other organization in trying to protect the arms and there is no proof at all that it has any effect. Blyleven could maybe have thrown every third day for 20 years but was probably just as likely to have arm issues after his first month. Not too many pitches in an inning, and maybe limits after surgery. Otherwise just common sense rather than organizational protocols.

#19 Dantes929

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 02:34 PM

Also, this kind of analysis does little without a comparison to all the other teams. It is possible that there are fan bases of 20 other teams that think their team is snake bit.

#20 twinsfan34

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 02:54 PM

I was actually looking for this article the day Buxton was shut down. My mind was aggregating the injuries. 

 

I was then comparing the other top systems: Cubs, Pirates, Astros. 

 

Cubs - have fared the best in avoiding the injury bug. Twins have had it the worst though. Then the Pirates, highlighted by Taillon's TJ and top 2013 pick Austin Meadows injuries. 

 

A quick glance over can be found by going to MLB's top 20 prospects per team. 

 

Twins:

http://mlb.mlb.com/m...y2014/#list=min

 

Cubs:

http://mlb.mlb.com/m...y2014/#list=chc

 

Astros:

http://mlb.mlb.com/m...y2014/#list=hou

 

Pirates:

http://mlb.mlb.com/m...y2014/#list=pit

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