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Narrative: Have the Twins Promoted College Pitchers Slowly?

cole sands matt garza scott baker kevin slowey kyle gibson
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#1 Seth Stohs

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Posted 15 March 2020 - 01:17 PM

Sometimes narratives, baseball or other, get into circulation, and once they do, it seems that they are hard to get rid of. I have probably (unfortunately) started some, and I am sure that I have passed along some without doing any research. Of course, I think we all agree that a little data to either support or disprove any narrative should help. Today I am going to address one of those narratives and let you decide.The Narrative: The former Twins front office leadership was slow to push pitchers up the ladder, especially in their first full professional season.

The 2019 Case: In 2019, Twins right-handed pitcher Cole Sands made his professional debut. He had been the Twins fifth-round draft pick in 2018 out of Florida State. After being drafted, he was shut down. He began the 2019 season in Cedar Rapids. He went 2-1 with a 3.05 ERA. After eight starts and just 41 1/3 innings with the Kernels, he was promoted to Ft. Myers. With the Miracle, he made nine starts and went 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 52 innings. He ended the season with one start at Double-A Pensacola in which he gave up two runs in four innings. He threw a total of 97 1/3 innings in his first full season.

I have seen it written or spoken about in a few places over the last couple of years that under the previous regime, the Twins would likely not have pushed a college pitcher like Sands quite as quickly. Is that true? Is that a fair critique?

Obviously there is no perfect way to analyze this. Pitcher development (like hitter development) is very much dependent upon the individual.

However, I wanted to go back several seasons and find out if the previous Twins regime had any (or many, or lots, or no) cases that fit the model that we saw in 2019 with Cole Sands.

What are those qualifications to meet? So I went back through all of the Twins drafts from 2001 through 2019. I looked for these two things from each pitcher drafted out of college. If, in his first full professional season, the pitcher did one or both of them, I included him.
  • Did the pitcher reach AA (or AAA)? Sands made one start at AA, or
  • Did the pitcher pitch at three or more levels? Sands pitched at Low-A, High-A and AA.
With that, let’s take a look at the Twins history this century.


CURRENT REGIME (2017-2019)
  • Cole Sands (5th round, 2019) - Pitched at three levels. Reached AA in 2020.
PREVIOUS REGIME
  • Tyler Jay (1st round, 2015) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2016..
  • Nick Burdi (supp 1st, 2014) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2015.
  • Jake Reed (5th round, 2014) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2015.
  • DJ Baxendale (10th round, 2012) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2013.
  • Pat Dean (3rd round, 2010) - Pitched at three levels, Low-A, High-A and AA in 2011.
  • Logan Darnell (6th round, 2010) - Pitched at three levels, Low-A, High-A and AA in 2011.
  • Kyle Gibson (1st round, 2009) - Pitched at three levels, High-A, AA and AAA in 2010.
  • Billy Bullock (2nd round, 2009) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2010.
  • Carlos Gutierrez (supp 1st, 2008) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2009.
  • Matt Garza (1st round, 2005) - Pitched at four levels, High-A, AA, AAA and MLB in 2006.
  • Kevin Slowey (2nd round, 2005) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2006.
  • Brian Duensing (3rd round, 2005) - Pitched at three levels, Low-A, High-A and AA in 2006.
  • Glen Perkins (1st round, 2004) - Pitched at two levels, High-A and AA in 2005.
  • Scott Baker (2nd round, 2003) - Pitched at three levels, High-A, AA and AAA in 2004.
  • Jesse Crain (2nd round, 2002) - Pitched at three levels, High-A, AA and AAA in 2003.
  • Adam Johnson (1st round, 2000) - Pitched at three levels, AA, AAA and MLB.
CONCLUSIONS
While this doesn’t dispute the studies done five years or so ago stating that the Twins were among the slowest, if not the slowest, to promote pitchers to the big leagues, this does show that the previous Twins regime was not afraid of pushing college pitchers quickly through the lower levels of the minor leagues. In fact, it happened most years.


This isn’t a scientific study. I have done nothing more than a quick search of Twins draft picks in Baseball-Reference, so it’s possible that I am missing something. Please feel free to let me know.

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#2 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 15 March 2020 - 01:54 PM

Question: Were all these pitchers listed shut down as soon as they were drafted for the remainder of the year or did some of them go on to pitch some professionally in the year they were drafted?


#3 mikelink45

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Posted 15 March 2020 - 02:23 PM

Pleasantly surprised - when the pitcher was good the previous regime did move them quickly.If only there had been more good ones. 

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#4 Seth Stohs

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Posted 15 March 2020 - 05:06 PM

 

Question: Were all these pitchers listed shut down as soon as they were drafted for the remainder of the year or did some of them go on to pitch some professionally in the year they were drafted?

 

It varies. Without going back in again, most of them got a few innings either in ET or Low A that first year. Kyle Gibson signed late and had the forearm issue, so he didn't. A few of each. 

 

The point really is just that Sands got to AA in his first full season as a pro... Lots of Twins pitchers have done that over the years. 

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#5 Darius

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Posted 15 March 2020 - 06:14 PM

I’m not sure you can really compare all college pitchers.

Did they leave college at 19 or 22? Did they pitch at a high-end program or a community college in Alaska? Did they have a college program that ran them into the ground or is their “arm mileage” low?

There are other factors as well. Was the guy ever good enough to make it to the majors in the first place? Where were they drafted? Obviously, there is more pressure to advance a top 5 pick than a guy drafted in an obscure late round. Who’s ahead of them in the pecking order, both minors and majors? Is the major league team competitive?

Another input into the process: the developmental staff. A high end staff gets the player ready for advancement earlier. If you spend two decades teaching hitters to slap the ball into the opposite gap....of course you’re going to screw guys up (see Ortiz, David). It may look like they aren’t “ready” to advance, when really they’re being held back by poor coaching.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the previous regime advanced all players, not only college pitchers, on a different timeline than some other clubs. It’s the nature of the small vs. large market salary cap-less system (poor developmental staff aside). When you’re small, you don’t want to burn a year for a marginal role. You know you’re not resigning the guy, so you want to hold off until the player is nearest his prime as possible. A year too early hurts the team....not the player.

On that note, speaking of narratives, I think this system has created one. It’s that players need lengthy periods of development. If they’re exposed too early, you’ll crack them like an egg destroying their career forever. There are parallel dimensions in which a player is a hall of famer if given adequate developmental time against 19 year olds, or a total bust if not cooked long enough. I’ve never bought any of that.

#6 Stark2

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Posted 15 March 2020 - 06:46 PM

Just wanted to thank you for this Twins Daily website. This is literally one of the few things that takes me away from the current events. Thank you and keep up the great work! Let’s all be good to each other. This too shall pass.
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#7 Seth Stohs

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Posted 15 March 2020 - 07:03 PM

 

I’m not sure you can really compare all college pitchers.

Did they leave college at 19 or 22? Did they pitch at a high-end program or a community college in Alaska? Did they have a college program that ran them into the ground or is their “arm mileage” low?

 

I 100% agree... the only thing that we have is that these guys were all drafted in the first five rounds of the draft (except Baxendale, but he was an exception). If they're in college and drafted lower than that, they most likely will need to move a little bit slower. All of these guys were drafted after their junior year of college, so they were all approximately 21 (with some plus-minus to it). I would say that all of the pitchers included were from good to very good baseball programs. 

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#8 Seth Stohs

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Posted 15 March 2020 - 07:17 PM

 

Another input into the process: the developmental staff. A high end staff gets the player ready for advancement earlier. If you spend two decades teaching hitters to slap the ball into the opposite gap....of course you’re going to screw guys up (see Ortiz, David). It may look like they aren’t “ready” to advance, when really they’re being held back by poor coaching.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the previous regime advanced all players, not only college pitchers, on a different timeline than some other clubs. It’s the nature of the small vs. large market salary cap-less system (poor developmental staff aside). When you’re small, you don’t want to burn a year for a marginal role. You know you’re not resigning the guy, so you want to hold off until the player is nearest his prime as possible. A year too early hurts the team....not the player.
 

 

 

I'd still contend that the Twins helped David Ortiz develop pretty well .He was a pretty good player with the Twins who just took off later (in some ways because o the things he learned, and in some ways because he put a huge chip on his shoulder).But that's a different story.

 

I don't think that the small market/large market has anything to do with what I found in the research above. Now, maybe it has something to do with when a team is willing to call a guy up. The guys in the list above that continued to develop at AA and AAA got to the big leagues pretty quickly and were on some winning teams. 


#9 old nurse

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Posted 15 March 2020 - 07:59 PM

I don't ever recall someone complaining about someone not being promoted from the A+ level or higher ever panning out.


#10 mlhouse

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Posted 16 March 2020 - 12:30 AM

There is no doubt that the Twins have slowly promoted college pitchers.

 

From 2013 to 2019 there were 15 pitchers that the Twins drafted that made their MLB debut.Of those 15 pitchers only 3 of them made their debut at age 24 (Duffey, Vasquez, Curtiss).

 

Most were 25 years old (Gibson, Rogers, Poppen, Sleger, Chargois, Acther, Darnell).Hildenberger and Wheeler were 26.Eades, Wimmer, and Dean 27.

 

While to a degree most of the names on here made the MLB level for just a quick show they did not have the talent to remain in the league, we have to also remember that the Twins pitching staff was pretty limited throughout most of this time frame.The other factor is that despite having good minor league statistics a lot of these players were still slowly moved through the system.  

 

But, a guy like Hildenberger was virtually unhittable as a minor league player at every level.When he got to the Twins in 2016 as a 26 year old player, he pitched very well with a 3.21 ERA and 9.4K/9. His arm did not hold in after his rookie season with the Twins, but when you are moved so slowly it doesn't give you much of a chance for second chances either.


#11 rdehring

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Posted 16 March 2020 - 06:23 AM

Whether they were promoted to fast, or not, what I took from this post is that only 7 of the 16 who did move fast made it to the big leagues for more than a few games.So less than half of the best of the entire organization made it.Of those 7 four had very good careers (five if you would include Gibson),albeit there were no ACES.

 

Don't know if you are up north or in the Twin Cities, Seth, stay safe.  

 

 


#12 howieramone2

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Posted 16 March 2020 - 06:24 AM

There is doubt we have moved our college pitchers too slowly. Let's see how they compare to the other 29 teams before we draw any faulty conclusions. It's very common for fan bases to feel prospects are not moved quickly enough. Very common.
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#13 Seth Stohs

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Posted 16 March 2020 - 08:19 AM

 

There is no doubt that the Twins have slowly promoted college pitchers.

 

From 2013 to 2019 there were 15 pitchers that the Twins drafted that made their MLB debut.Of those 15 pitchers only 3 of them made their debut at age 24 (Duffey, Vasquez, Curtiss).

 

Most were 25 years old (Gibson, Rogers, Poppen, Sleger, Chargois, Acther, Darnell).Hildenberger and Wheeler were 26.Eades, Wimmer, and Dean 27.

 

While to a degree most of the names on here made the MLB level for just a quick show they did not have the talent to remain in the league, we have to also remember that the Twins pitching staff was pretty limited throughout most of this time frame.The other factor is that despite having good minor league statistics a lot of these players were still slowly moved through the system.  

 

But, a guy like Hildenberger was virtually unhittable as a minor league player at every level.When he got to the Twins in 2016 as a 26 year old player, he pitched very well with a 3.21 ERA and 9.4K/9. His arm did not hold in after his rookie season with the Twins, but when you are moved so slowly it doesn't give you much of a chance for second chances either.

 

Some of these examples kind of make my point. First, I will definitely agree that Hildenberger could have and should have moved up faster, but he was like a 22nd round pick who had one good college season, his fifth year, so the age thing doesn' matter in that case. 

 

Guys that get drafted at 21, if they're in the big leagues at 23, that's an exception.  

 

Of that group above that you mention, there are a lot of similarities that can explain why they weren't called up until 25 or older. Gibson was certainly on the fast track until Tommy John surgery. JT Chargois missed two years with injury. Many were late round picks, likely because they weren't as advanced at 21 and eventually did get it. Andrew Vasquez was a late-round pick who struggled to throw strikes the first two seasons of his pro career. Many of the guys that debuted at 27 maybe just didn't develop in the upper levels.In some cases, the argument isn't so much if they were called up too late but if they should have been called up at all. 

 

My point is that they aren't afraid to push guys to AA which is generally where even the top college guys start to see some struggles. 

 

And ultimately, it is an individual's development. There is no cookie-cutter timeline. 

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#14 ashbury

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Posted 16 March 2020 - 08:58 AM

Guys that get drafted at 21, if they're in the big leagues at 23, that's an exception. 

Guys who get drafted and make it to the majors are the exception, period. Our interest is mainly in the exceptional players. We didn't seem to come away with many.

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#15 joefish

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Posted 16 March 2020 - 11:03 AM

The Alaska Baseball League alumni includes:
Randy Johnson
Tom Seaver
Frankie Sweetmusic Viola
Jared Weaver
Dave Steib
C j Wilson
AND...
Josh Donaldson
Aaron Judge
Barry Bonds
Mark McGwire
They all played summer ball here.
The list is long.
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#16 mlhouse

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Posted 16 March 2020 - 12:18 PM

 

Some of these examples kind of make my point. First, I will definitely agree that Hildenberger could have and should have moved up faster, but he was like a 22nd round pick who had one good college season, his fifth year, so the age thing doesn' matter in that case. 

 

Guys that get drafted at 21, if they're in the big leagues at 23, that's an exception.  

 

Of that group above that you mention, there are a lot of similarities that can explain why they weren't called up until 25 or older. Gibson was certainly on the fast track until Tommy John surgery. JT Chargois missed two years with injury. Many were late round picks, likely because they weren't as advanced at 21 and eventually did get it. Andrew Vasquez was a late-round pick who struggled to throw strikes the first two seasons of his pro career. Many of the guys that debuted at 27 maybe just didn't develop in the upper levels.In some cases, the argument isn't so much if they were called up too late but if they should have been called up at all. 

 

My point is that they aren't afraid to push guys to AA which is generally where even the top college guys start to see some struggles. 

 

And ultimately, it is an individual's development. There is no cookie-cutter timeline. 

 

I dont think that the data supports your claims. 

 

If you look at the college pitchers drafted in the first rounds since 2009 (Gibson's year) here is the age they made their MLB debut:

 

2009

 

Strasboug21

Minor 22

Leike22

Storern22

White22

Jenkins24

 

2010  

 

Pomeranz22

Harvey23

McGuire28

Sale21

 

2011

 

Cole22

Bauer21

Jungman25

Bradley 26

reed 24

Barnes24

Anderson26

Meyer25

Gilmartin25

 

2012

 

gausman 22

Henry23

Wacha21

Stroman23

 

2013

 

Gray23

Shipley24

Gonzalez22

Gonzales23

 

2014

 

Rodon22

Nola22

Freeland24

Hoffman23

Beede 25

Newcomb24

Finnegan21

Fedde24

Weaver22

 

2015

 

Tate25

Fullmer22

Buechler22

 

2016

 

Quantill24

Dunn23

Zeuch23

Lauer23

 

While this is not a perfect study because MLB debut might not be a full measure and there may be typos and other issues in presenting the data, it is clear that the Twins have been slow to move college level pitchers.

 

Most of the college drafted pitchers who are relatively successful in the minors make the major leagues before the age of 24.Some are held up, like Kyle Gibson was, with arm problems or minor league struggles, but those are rarer.  

 

And, as I point out many times over, the Twins throughout this period struggled with their pitching stagg.Yet, they moved their college arms stepwise through the system that other organizations would no have.  


#17 howieramone2

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Posted 16 March 2020 - 01:22 PM

College pitchers drafted in the first round made it to The Show relatively young. We already knew that and it has nothing to do with the Twins.
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#18 Tomj14

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Posted 16 March 2020 - 01:33 PM

Based on Seth's data, I don't see how people can say they moved college pitchers too slow, I think it points out how how bad the Twins were at drafting really good college to top end major league pitchers, or to give them the benefit of doubt, how they were too successful to draft a few of the top end pitchers.

 

On a side note, rushing pitchers that aren't great doesn't make them great.

 

 

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#19 jimbo92107

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Posted 16 March 2020 - 08:36 PM

This is an interesting topic, but the stats prompt what may be a far more important question: Why do so many young pitchers blow out their TJ ligament?

Are there examples of power pitchers that never had elbow trouble?

If so, what were they doing different?

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#20 howieramone2

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Posted 17 March 2020 - 03:46 AM

Most likely they weren't pitchers in Little League.



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