Friday, September 14, 2012

Eye on 2013: Cole De Vries

Minnesota native Cole De Vries
was signed as an undrafted free
agent out of the University of
Cole De Vries began the 2012 season about as much on the outside as any pitcher in the Twins system. The Twins had 32 pitchers in major league camp; De Vries was not one of them.

De Vries' 2012 season ended Thursday when it was determined that he had a cracked rib from the line drive he caught with his chest Saturday. He exits 2012 as the third-best starter the Twins had this season -- 5-5, 4.11 in  87.2 innings, 16 starts -- essentially half a season. (He also had 70 innings at Triple A Rochester.) He ended strong -- his ERA in his final four starts was 1.54, and that included an outing against Texas.

He can, and should, feel good about his 2012 season.

The question today: Should the Twins feel good about having him in their 2013 rotation?

A 4.11 ERA isn't bad, but it's a bit deceptive in De Vries' case; he also allowed eight unearned runs, one of the higher numbers on the staff (Brian Duensing has allowed nine so far, and Liam Hendriks has also allowed eight.) Add in those unearned runs, and he allowed 4.93 runs per nine innings.

Looking at the key leading indicator stats: He had a very good walk rate (1.8 BB/9) and walk/strikeout ratio (3.22 strikeouts for each walk allowed). The strikeout rate itself (6 K/9) rates pretty highly for the team, but is below average for the league.

Those figures, in total, suggest his effectiveness was genuine.

On the other hand ... De Vries allowed 16 homers, 1.6 per nine innings, which is a high rate. His BABIP -- Batting Average on Balls In Play -- was .262, and that is not sustainable for a non-knuckleballer. Those stats suggest that he was getting results better than he "should" have gotten.

I've seen a comparison of De Vries to Paul Byrd, a late-bloomer who won 109 games in a 14-year career. Byrd, I think, represents De Vries' ceiling -- and the Twins should be delighted if De Vries can match the Byrd of 2002-2008.

But there are a lot of guys who match that kind of profile, and few get as much out of limited stuff as Byrd did. The Twins ought not go into the offseason with De Vries penciled into a rotation spot. He should be in a group competing next spring for the fourth or fifth slots. He has, in my view, been good enough to justify retaining on the 40-man roster this winter.

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