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Article: Twins 2017 Minor League Starting Pitcher Of The Year

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#1 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 09:36 PM

For years now, the biggest area of necessity the Minnesota Twins have faced has been on the mound. Specifically, the pitcher starting games for the hometown nine. The minor league system has produced a good amount of offensive weapons, but the tide is beginning to turn and the system is beginning to bear pitching fruit. Focusing on starters, we now hand out the 2017 Minnesota Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year award.Before we get to the Top Five, and the eventual winner, it's worth noting a few honorable mentions. Across the organization, Minnesota saw lots of winning in 2017, and it was on the back of good starting pitching that many of those victories were earned. Here are some of those candidates just missing the final cut:

Honorable Mention
  • Nik Turley Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings 2.05 ERA, 92.0 IP (13 starts), 12.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.011 WHIP
  • Lewis Thorpe Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts 2.93 ERA, 83.0 IP (16 starts), 9.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 1.205 WHIP
  • Dereck Rodriguez Fort Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts 3.27 ERA, 143.1 IP (24 starts), 7.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 1.193 WHIP
  • David Hurlbut Rochester Red Wings 3.44 ERA, 130.2 IP (22 starts), 7.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.393 WHIP
  • Tyler Wells GCL Twins/Cedar Rapids Kernels 3.03 ERA, 89.0 IP (15 starts), 10.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.124 WHIP
Starting Pitcher of the Year

Here are the top five picks for the 2017 Minnesota Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.

#5- Fernando Romero Chattanooga Lookouts 3.53 ERA, 125.0 IP (23 starts), 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.352 WHIP

Now two years removed from the surgery taking away his 2015 campaign, Romero has become the darling of many prospect rankings. As a pitcher with starting stamina, and velocity that can push towards triple digits, he's often regarded as the Twins best chance at a potential staff ace. Reaching Double-A in 2017, he often overmatched opposing hitters, and found himself racking up strikeouts. With a previous career high of just 90.1 IP in a single season, 2017 wore on him a bit as his innings climbed north of 120. Continuing to distance himself from his setback season, Romero will enter 2018 as among the most polished arms in the Twins system, and he should have a shot at impacting the big league club in 2018.

#4- Sean Poppen Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle 3.17 ERA, 139.0 IP (25 starts), 7.9 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 1.137 WHIP

Poppen was a 19th-round pick out of Harvard during the 2016 MLB Draft. After finishing 2016 in Cedar Rapids, he again began the year at the Single-A level. Poppen quickly established himself as being among the Kernels best options, and his 14 starts to the tune of a 2.90 ERA helped to set the tone for a season that would end in the playoffs. Making 11 starts at High-A for the Miracle, Poppen saw a bit of a numbers decrease across the board, but most importantly, he continued to flash strong command. While he may not blow by hitters at the upper levels, he's already a prospect who has shown a very strong ability to pitch, and not just throw. Look for Poppen to quickly establish himself in the Florida State League in 2018, with a likely promotion to Chattanooga coming at some point.

#3- Aaron Slegers Rochester Red Wings 3.40 ERA, 148.1 IP (24 starts), 7.2 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 1.234 WHIP

Posting nearly an identical ERA in 2017 as in his 2016 season at Chattanooga (3.41), Slegers actually got even better at the highest minor league rung of the organization. Not only did he pick up nearly an extra strikeout per nine innings, but he also cut his walk rate down to a near-career best mark. The fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft from Indiana made his MLB debut with the Twins in 2017, and turned in an impressive outing in that game. While he's yet to establish himself at the big league level, he's shown that he should continue to remain in the conversation for major league time going forward. A 15-4 record with Rochester is hard to overlook, and Slegers should enter 2018 with an outside chance to compete for a rotation spot with the Twins.

#2- Clark Beeker Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle 2.63 ERA, 143.2 IP (23 starts), 5.8 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 1.058 WHIP

Taken by the Twins in the 33rd round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of Steph Curry U (Davidson College), Beeker is nothing short of a glowing success. Not an incredibly hard thrower, he's utilized an exceptional level of command to find success in the early stages of his career. Earning a late season promotion to the Florida State League, Beeker got his first taste of High-A ball and was a part of a playoff-bound Miracle squad. With the Kernels, his 2.03 ERA dazzled, and his 128.2 IP breaks down to roughly 6.5 innings per start. The expectation should be that Beeker begins the 2018 season back with the Miracle, and a similar path of a late season promotion seems likely. As he climbs levels in the system, the Davidson alum will need to continue to rely on keeping hitters off balance and utilizing his pinpoint accuracy. Should a similar narrative continue to play out over the next couple of years, the Twins will surely have found themselves a diamond in the rough.

#1- Stephen Gonsalves Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings 3.27 ERA, 110.0 IP (19 starts), 9.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.136 WHIP

Repeating as the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year, Gonsalves edges the second-place vote getter by a single tally (24 to 23). If 2016 was a strong year for Gonsalves (and it was), it's hard to see a way that 2017 doesn't top it. Despite being at Double-A for the bulk of the year, and eventually reaching Triple-A, Gonsalves held his strikeout rate strong while drastically improving his walk rate. If there was an area of focus in 2017, it was limiting free passes. The 2.4 BB/9 across 15 starts for Chattanooga was a new career best.

Having cracked multiple top 100 prospect lists coming into 2017, Gonsalves had emerged as a national name that had Twins fans salivating at the thought of inserting him into the big league rotation. He probably isn't going to generate the same buzz as other big name pitching prospects as velocity isn't his game. Sitting low to mid 90s, the 2013 fourth-round pick has the ability to work batters and push for a few extra miles per hour when needed. As he continues to replicate numbers at each level however, he's shown that the radar gun readings aren't the only thing indicative of a rotation mainstay.

While there isn't much of a track record yet at Triple-A an extended stay doesn't seem entirely likely. His debut game for Rochester was a seven inning, two-run performance that saw him fan seven Norfolk batters while issuing zero walks. It's hard to see a scenario in which Gonsalves cracks Minnesota's rotation from the get go next spring, but he should have more than enough ability to prove himself at the next rung down. Expecting him to go into the season as Rochester's ace, the parent club should have more than just a spot start option when his name is finally called.

Going into 2018, Gonsalves is going to be knocking on the door to Minnesota in short order. Assuming the big league club addresses starting pitching over the winter, there will be some depth to wade through. At this point however, Gonsalves has the track record that has him penciled in as a future rotation piece.

Just barely 23 years-old, Gonsalves should continue to represent the Twins home- grown youth movement, and as we've seen, it's been a rather solid blueprint. It's hard to imagine Stephen as a three-time winner of this award a year from now, but that's only because it's likely he's no longer eligible.

Despite being arguably the toughest thing to develop in a system, the Twins had more than a handful of strong candidates for Starting Pitcher of the Year in 2017. As the group continues to climb, grow, and succeed together, it will be exciting to see where each of them find his ceiling. Congratulations to each of the voter getters on a great 2017.

The Ballots

Votes came in from each of the Twins Daily minor league writers, making seven ballots in total. Striving for transparency, here is how each individual voted:
  • Seth Stohs - 1) Aaron Slegers 2) Sean Poppen 3) Clark Beeker 4) Stephen Gonsalves 5) Dereck Rodriguez
  • Jeremy Nygaard - 1) Nik Turley 2) Stephen Gonsalves 3) Lewis Thorpe 4) Tyler Wells 5) Lachlan Wells
  • Cody Christie - 1) Stephen Gonsalves 2) Clark Beeker 3) Aaron Slegers 4) Sean Poppen 5) Cody Stashak
  • Ted Schwerzler - 1) Stephen Gonsalves 2) Fernando Romero 3) Clark Beeker 4) Aaron Slegers 5) Dereck Rodriguez
  • Tom Froemming - 1) Stephen Gonsalves 2) Sean Poppen 3) Clark Beeker 4) Aaron Slegers 5) Fernando Romero
  • Steve Lein - 1) Clark Becker 2) Aaron Siegers 3) Stephen Gonsalves 4) Nik Turley 5) Sean Poppen
  • Eric Pleiss - 1) Clark Beeker 2) Aaron Slegers 3) Fernando Romero 4) David Hurlbut 5) Eduardo Del Rosario
Feel free to discuss below in the comments. Share your ballot!

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#2 Tom Froemming

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 10:30 PM

I had such a tough time with this one. There are guys who didn't even crack the top 5 who have legit cases for the top spot. 

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#3 jimbo92107

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 01:14 AM

Gonzo should be pitching for the Twins next season right away. Get him out there early, expose him to mlb hitters, let him take a few lumps and learn what it takes. It will pay off later in the season when he's no longer a noob. 

 

Meanwhile, I wanna see Slegers up there again, and Jorge. I'd like to see Romero get a cup around mid season, if his arm still looks healthy. If it gets crowded in the starting ro, I'm okay wid dat. Put the pups in the pen, let them get innings in long relief. Stack the staff with talented kids, get them some innings in the show. 2018 is when it starts to happen, baby!

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Baseball is easy. Just watch!


#4 Thegrin

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 04:29 AM

Colon shouldn't be back.  Hughes should be in the BP.  Santiago should be gone.  Gibson has to keep pitching well.  That leaves Santana, Berrios and Mejia (perhaps) in front of Gonzalves.  Lets hope that Falvine can find some pitchers good enough to keep Gonzales in AAA for the first months of the season.  :D

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#5 terrydactyls1947

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 05:04 AM

How often does a team have a minor league pitcher with an overall record of 20-1 that doesn't even get honorable mention?

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#6 Tom Froemming

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 05:54 AM

 

How often does a team have a minor league pitcher with an overall record of 20-1 that doesn't even get honorable mention?

Just like Gabriel Moya on the reliever side, Zack Littell would've been the easy choice had all his stats this season come with the Twins. But just 41.2 of his 157 innings were with the Chattanooga.

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#7 twinssouth

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 06:08 AM

I would have had Gonsalves, then Slegers, Romero, Thorpe. To have Romero and Thorpe come back from TJ and throw the way they did, is quite impressive. Recent interview with Falvine, said Gonsalves and Romero were running out of gas at the end, thus reason not to promote Gonsalves when that start opened up end of August. Personally, I think Gonsalves got his nose bent out of shape when he was passed over, reason why last couple of starts were so so.

#8 Seth Stohs

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 07:09 AM

 

I had such a tough time with this one. There are guys who didn't even crack the top 5 who have legit cases for the top spot. 

 

And I thought that the #1 spot was an easy choice... But, since I was the only one who put Slegers at #1, apparently it wasn't such an easy choice. 

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#9 DocBauer

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 08:11 AM

More encouraged than I have been for some time when looking at the SP option and depth in the system. And as mentioned, the list doesn't include Beeker, Jorge or Stewart.

My best guess to begin 2018?

FA/trade
Santana
Berrios
Gibson
Mejia

They absolutely will, and should, make one move. Gibson really seems to have turned a corner mentally and mechanically and will not cost much to be brought back on a 1 year deal for depth. And this doesn't include May making a comeback.

My projection doesn't include Slegers, or Gonsalves simply due to depth, but they will be in the conversation and fight for jobs. I just see them opening in AAA initially.

Think about Rochester with Slegers, Gonsalves, Romero, Beeker and Jorge. Wow!
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#10 Mike Sixel

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 08:16 AM

I can't understand how Thorpe didn't get votes. He has better underlying numbers than nearly every guy that did. I also don't get the lack of love for Turley at all.

 

Jeremy is the only voter that is even close to right, imo. I say give Jeremy more power :)

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I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#11 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 08:31 AM

The Twins got some really nice years from guys that came out of nowhere (Turley) and players returning from injury (Thorpe). My leaning towards Gonsalves was really heavily reliant on his growth with command. He's going to need that at the next level, and a stronger grasp of it this year was huge.

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#12 PDX Twin

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 08:50 AM

Has Trevor May retired and I didn't hear about it? Or has everyone just forgotten about him in the discussion of next year's rotation?

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It's great to get out of the cellar ... as long as you bring something with you.


#13 Vanimal46

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 08:52 AM

 

Has Trevor May retired and I didn't hear about it? Or has everyone just forgotten about him in the discussion of next year's rotation?

 

Well, chances are he's not going to be ready until June-ish next season. And it's tough to rely on someone coming back from Tommy John and be successful right away. 

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#14 Mike Sixel

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 08:53 AM

 

Has Trevor May retired and I didn't hear about it? Or has everyone just forgotten about him in the discussion of next year's rotation?

 

I guess counting on a guy that's been injured more than 1 time, and just missed the full year, seems like a bad strategy to many of us. That's where I sit. If they get anything from him next year, gravy. But, I wouldn't count on it.

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I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#15 Tom Froemming

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 08:58 AM

 

I can't understand how Thorpe didn't get votes. He has better underlying numbers than nearly every guy that did. I also don't get the lack of love for Turley at all.

 

Jeremy is the only voter that is even close to right, imo. I say give Jeremy more power :)

Both those guys were outstanding, but just didn't make quite enough starts to break into the top 5 for me. Turley only made 13 starts in the minors, pitching 64 innings in that role. I think Clark Beeker's scoreless inning steak was longer than that. LOL

 

Ok, that's exaggerating a bit, but I did think the guys who performed over a bigger sample deserved some more consideration. Though, obviously going with Gonsalves, that wasn't the deciding factor for me either. Again, this one was really difficult for me.

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#16 Mike Sixel

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 09:04 AM

 

Both those guys were outstanding, but just didn't make quite enough starts to break into the top 5 for me. Turley only made 13 starts in the minors, pitching 64 innings in that role. I think Clark Beeker's scoreless inning steak was longer than that. LOL

 

Ok, that's exaggerating a bit, but I did think the guys who performed over a bigger sample deserved some more consideration. Though, obviously going with Gonsalves, that wasn't the deciding factor for me either. Again, this one was really difficult for me.

 

I figured innings played a role. And, I get that. It is more my admiration for what they did than a strong disagreement with the decision(s).

I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#17 Oldgoat_MN

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 09:18 AM

This is really fun, Ted. Thank you.

I would have gone with Jeremy's list. I still think Turley should get some time on the MLB hill, but that's hard to do in a Wild Card race. I like the Wells brothers, too.

Nothing against Clark Beeker, but a 24 year old in A ball (two years older than the competition) who has a 5.9 K/9 rate... that command and control better be Maddux-like.

Edited by Oldgoat_MN, 14 September 2017 - 09:20 AM.

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#18 clutterheart

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 10:28 AM

 

And I thought that the #1 spot was an easy choice... But, since I was the only one who put Slegers at #1, apparently it wasn't such an easy choice. 

 

Why is he the easy choice?  What about his season stands out?  (please don't say "wins")

 

His numbers are OK, but nothing eye popping.  He seems pretty "pitch to contacty," but his SO numbers are not high enough to make up for it.  From my eye he plays with fire by letting on a lot of baserunners and MLB batters will make him pay for that. 

 

He had a nice season and deserves to stay on the 40 man and maybe he could take over the #5 spot if its open, but nothing about his numbers scream "great year" to me.  


#19 Steve Lein

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 10:30 AM

 

This is really fun, Ted. Thank you.

I would have gone with Jeremy's list. I still think Turley should get some time on the MLB hill, but that's hard to do in a Wild Card race. I like the Wells brothers, too.

Nothing against Clark Beeker, but a 24 year old in A ball (two years older than the competition) who has a 5.9 K/9 rate... that command and control better be Maddux-like.

 

Part of my reasoning for him at #1, is he was Maddux-like. 

 

In the one particular stretch of 8 starts that was cited often in the MiLB reports (30+ straight scoreless innings as part of it), he was 5-1, and allowed only 4 earned runs in 53.1 IP (0.68 ERA), with a 32/6 K/BB ratio (5.33:1). 

 

But don't get me wrong, this was a hard exercise to finalize. I had Slegers, Beeker, and Gonsalves at #1 at some point through the process. 24 years old in Midwest League as a 33rd round college draft choice last year is not a large concern for me when it comes to formulating this award.

 

Was hard to leave a lot of guys off. Thorpe was good, Rodriguez was good, Tyler Wells was good. I just couldn't get them in when I looked at the full portfolio.

 

I think I gave Nik Turley the MiLB pitcher of the day award at least 3 times, and some of those games were in the teens for K's. He left a big impression, had to get him in there (Jeremy liked him a lot!).

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Scouting Report: Power: 30, Hitting: 50, Arm: 60, Defense: 45, Speed: 45. "Line drive swing and shows good contact and on-base abilities. Double's power at his peak. Strong arm from 2B or the OF, stiff hands. Not a fast runner, but above average instincts on the bases. Skinny body doesn't look the part, but will sneak up on you. ACL surgery sapped much of his athleticism." (Probably)


#20 Seth Stohs

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Posted 14 September 2017 - 10:47 AM

 

Why is he the easy choice?  What about his season stands out?  (please don't say "wins")

 

His numbers are OK, but nothing eye popping.  He seems pretty "pitch to contacty," but his SO numbers are not high enough to make up for it.  From my eye he plays with fire by letting on a lot of baserunners and MLB batters will make him pay for that. 

 

He had a nice season and deserves to stay on the 40 man and maybe he could take over the #5 spot if its open, but nothing about his numbers scream "great year" to me.  

 

So many reasons. First, this isn't a prospect ranking. IF that's the case, it's clearly Gonsalves and then Romero... both of whom had really nice seasons too.

 

I won't mention Wins, except to reference his stretch from mid-June through his first call up to the Twins in which he went 9-0 with a 2.10 ERA. At one point, he had a stretch of 14 out of 15 quality starts. Only Felix Jorge had more innings pitched (149.0 to 148.1) and both of them also missed two minor league starts to make big league starts. He walks very few. His strikeout rate was just 7.2, but the year before it was 6.4, and the year before that was 6.0. That's a nice bump. I don't think that any starting pitcher in the Twins system this year improved his standing in the organization (or around baseball) than Slegers. 

 

I don't look at age-to-level of competition for these awards, only as a tie-breaker maybe. I figure a guy can only pitch where he's assigned. I do tend to factor in Innings Pitched maybe more than some as well. Gonsalves had 38 less innings than Slegers. He had 56 innings more than Turley, and he had 65 more innings than Thorpe. Maybe those guys were a little bit better, but it's a long season and I think that those innings are pretty important. 

 

Certainly isn't a knock on any of the others... I feel good about my rankings, but there were a lot of really good starting pitching performances, and there wasn't that one pitcher who dominated the way Berrios did in 2014 and 2015 or Gonsalves did in 2016. 

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