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  • Replenishing The Pitching Pipeline


    Nick Nelson

    The Cleveland Indians went to the World Series last year, and could well return this year, on the strength of a terrific pitching staff. Their exemplary rotation was built through a very distinct strategy, and now their former assistant general manager appears to be implementing the same plan here in Minnesota.

    Image courtesy of Ken Blaze, USA Today

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    Sure, it's great to draft and develop your own arms. But the draft is a known crapshoot, especially where pitchers are concerned (hello, Kohl Stewart and Tyler Jay), so the real key is identifying players in other organizations and getting them at just the right time.

    Three of Cleveland's top starters were acquired at a point when they were big-league ready, or very close, but had little or no MLB experience

    Corey Kluber came in a trade with San Diego in 2010, when he was in Double-A. He arrived in the majors the next year. Carlos Carrasco was a Triple-A pitcher for the Phillies when he came over in 2008, and debuted for Cleveland the next year. Trevor Bauer was a 21-year-old with four big-league starts when the Indians got him.

    The Twins, positioned at the front end of what they hope will be a prolonged winning cycle, should be targeting players at this very stage. And they have been.

    It actually started a year ago, before Falvey and Thad Levine even arrived. At the 2016 deadline, acting GM Rob Antony sent Eduardo Nunez to San Francisco in a deal that looked good at the time and now looks even better. Adalberto Mejia has made 16 starts for the Twins this year, and he's been their third-best starter.

    In the Rule 5 draft, Minnesota selected Justin Haley, another prospect on the verge of MLB-readiness, though injuries robbed him of the chance to make an impression and he was recently sent back to Boston. When the Twins traded John Ryan Murphy to Arizona last week, they got back Gabriel Moya, a reliever who was dominating Double-A and could enter the picture very quickly.

    Then, over the weekend, Jaime Garcia's frantic journey landed him in New York, as the Twins flipped him for two more high-performing minor-league pitchers who are close. Dietrich Enns was pitching in Triple-A, with a 2.29 ERA in seven starts, and Zack Littell was 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA in seven starts at Double-A.

    The sum result of the Garcia moves is this: Minnesota swapped out a teenager in rookie ball for two pitchers capable of helping in 2018. Their entire strategy has followed this general pattern under Falvey and Levine, and I suspect that if any big deals occur on Monday, we'll see it continue.

    You're not often going to find a Kluber or Carrasco through this method, unless you have big-time talent to dangle, but even getting a few more Mejias would be hugely helpful for the Twins.

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    The Twins did try earlier, what with Meyer, May, Worley and such. Plus drafting ALL those pitchers for a few years. The results, uneven if not a disaster. When you are looking at the names for the future, especially the near future, many weren't considered in the top prospects world (Eades, Slegers, Hurlbut and Hildenberger, Rucinski, Busenitz).

     

    But, yes, it is nice to get three solid arms that have the potential of making the major leagues at some point.

     

    But you never, ever know.

     

    Then, again, you look at the majors and the guys drawing a salary and wonder if a Kohl Stewart would be as good as a Gibson or a Hughes and even that Haley guy you took a shot in the Rule 5.

     

    We still have some fluff on the roster. I mean: Boshers, Duffey, Belisle. You have to ask what roles they are looking at for Rogers. Is Pressly worth the long leash. What place in the bullpen do you give Hildenberger. And Busenitz...why not use him...what is he sitting around in the bullpen doing...guarding the treat backpack?

     

    I'm still not seeing a "place in the lineup" role for anyone but Dozier so far this year. I'm not sure who the longmen or setup guys truly are in the pen. I don't know why we are pressed to get five innings. let along six, out of our rotation and how can that get fixed.

     

    And what is the bench...or better yet, we don't have a true DH.

     

    Cheap seats come September?

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    It is a numbers game. Definitely some solid moves here. It would be nice to see Ervin and/or Dozier go. They may fetch a Kluber/Carrasco type prospect.

     

    It sure would be nice to add one or two along side Gonsalves, Berrios, and Romero.

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    Kudos to Falvey and Levine for the Jaime Garcia trades--and maybe even more so for ridding us of JR Murphy to get a dominant RP in AA. Not sure who else will leave in trades--and I'm hoping Ervin stays-- but I trust Falvine will not get cheated.

     

    Was it a coincidence that Buxton went on the DL when we had to see more of Zach Granite? And even a few more days with the migraine that "required" Buxton to get some confidence back from AAA pitching? The timing was just too optimal. With not a whole lot of trade bait to land better pitching, maybe teams were asking about Rosario in a trade? Hopefully they won't listen to offers for Kepler.

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    Granite is going to force OF decisions:

     

    Buxton, gotta keep him and hope he becomes that elite defender with huge speed and extra base, if not HR, power.

     

    Kepler, gotta think about keeping him, smooth defender, fast, X-base power, good control of strike zone, and high upside.

     

    Rosario, best hitter on the team, increasing strike zone control, good arm, X-base power, but, hate to say it, a bit of a head case if you look closely at some of his play this year.

     

    Grossman, on-base monster, some power, but decent speed, good extra guy, switch-hits, hack in the outfield.

     

    That leaves Granite.  You can see that in another year, the kid will be terrific at the plate and on the bases, and a capable defender, above average.  And, guess what?  Twins need a lead-off man, who gets on, steals bases, and pressures the other team.

     

    But, with Rosario and Kepler swinging left, it's redundant to keep all three.

     

    How the Twins work through this outfield surplus and what they get in return, will shape this team for years to come.

     

    Hard to let go of Rosario, because his forearms and wrists are so strong, and he has passion, but, given everything, he's the one I'd trade for pitching.

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    I need to see more of Granite before I move someone else.  His arm looks very suspect, and I want to see what happens when teams see him for a second or third series.  I still wonder if he's not a 4th outfielder.  If nothing else, have 4-5 outfielders could be nice depth for once. 

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    Hard to let go of Rosario, because his forearms and wrists are so strong, and he has passion, but, given everything, he's the one I'd trade for pitching

     

    How many teams would see him as an upgrade in LF?  How many of those would see him as a big enough upgrade to give up something significant?

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    Trade Grossman for whatever is available....keep Granite as a 4th outfielder with MUCH more versitility.

     

    If nothing is available for Grossman...it tells you that we are overvaluing his one talent and DFA-Away!

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    I agree on Grossman. A DH who goes 2 months without hitting a HR? Pathetic, I don't care how many walks he draws. At best he's a 4th OF'er and his D isn't good enough for that. 

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    *snip*

     

    Then, again, you look at the majors and the guys drawing a salary and wonder if a Kohl Stewart would be as good as a Gibson or a Hughes and even that Haley guy you took a shot in the Rule 5

    I have to ask because this is an example of my absolute largest sports pet peeves. When you say "a Kohl Stewart" etc do you mean Kohl Stewart or any old Kohl Stewart? Same with "a Kyle Gibson". How many are we talking here? When we're in a sports conversation, it's ok to just say somebody's name. Not "when you have a Joe mauer batting .300 you always have a shot". NO! When Joe Mauer does xyz then whatever. It's a specific person being talked about. Not one of several of them. It's not lost on me that what is probably meant is "a guy like ____" but it just kills me.

    Is there anyone else that feels this way?? Sorry, rant over and this is not directed at you specifically. I'll show myself out.

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    Was it a coincidence that Buxton went on the DL when we had to see more of Zach Granite? And even a few more days with the migraine that "required" Buxton to get some confidence back from AAA pitching? The timing was just too optimal.

    Yes, coincidence. There are still more important unanswered questions about Buxton right now than anyone else on the team. They absolutely did not force him to the DL during a hot streak and a pennant race just to get a look at a relatively fringe prospect in Granite.

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    I need to see more of Granite before I move someone else.  His arm looks very suspect, and I want to see what happens when teams see him for a second or third series.  I still wonder if he's not a 4th outfielder.  If nothing else, have 4-5 outfielders could be nice depth for once. 

     

    His bat is a bit punchless too. Sorry, but I don't see anything from Granite that says he will be a better player than Buxton. He might be slightly better now, but he definitely doesn't have the higher ceiling.

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    Given their recent moves, I have to wonder what is the timeline for Falvey and Levine. So far, it doesn't sound like next year....

    What's given you this impression? Most of the prospects they've acquired are close to the majors, and they haven't given up anyone who would've helped them in 2018. 

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