Monday, August 10, 2015

A trip to Cedar Rapids: John Curtiss and Luke Bard

The Twins in the past three years have used a goodly portion of their first-10-rounds draft picks to select college closers. The payoff on those picks so far have been minimal.

Luke Bard is one of those college closers. The Twins took him with the 42nd overall pick in 2012. He pitched seven innings on two levels that year, 13 innings in 2013, none at all last year. It's not much of a foundation for a pro career.

He's 24 now, which is old for the Midwest League, On Saturday night he made his 21st appearance for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, He struck out one in his sole inning of work, allowed two hits (one a scratch infield hit) and no runs. More important, he demonstrated the kind of velocity that intrigued the Twins when he was a collegian at Georgia Tech. He was consistently in the mid-90s on the scoreboard gun; at least one pitch was listed as 97.

The Twins talked in 2012 about trying him as a starter. Two seasons lost to injury have probably derailed that notion. His ERA for Cedar Rapids (2.11) is impressive; his strikeout rate (6.6) is less so. Still, it's the kind of arm one does not discard lightly.

The Twins took John Curtiss in the sixth round last year. He came off the disabled list about the time I showed up in town, and he threw a shutout inning of relief Saturday night. He popped a few mid-90 readings on the scoreboard gun as well.

Curtiss opened the season in the Kernels rotation and made seven starts before going on the shelf for almost two months. His numbers are quite opposite Bard's: A lousy ERA (5.68) and a better K rate (8.8 per nine innings).

Nobody's going to move from the Midwest League straight to the majors, so nobody I watched in Cedar Rapids should be viewed as immediate help for the major league team's beleaguered bullpen corps. That Curtiss and Bard are still in the Midwest League typifies the futility so far of the bullpen draft strategy.

(The Monday print column is about Nick Gordon, the 19-year-old shortstop prospect at C.R. and the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft. Read it here.)

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