Friday, November 21, 2014

Filling the 40 (for a while)

Thursday was the deadline for teams to protect eligible players from the Rule 5 draft.

The Twins entered the day with four open spaces on the 40 and filled them all.

Three were obvious selections: Miguel Sano, Alex Meyer and Eddie Rosario. The fourth wasn't so obvious: left-handed pitcher Jason Wheeler.

I saw Wheeler pitch once, in 2012 in Beloit. He was, I am told, a different pitcher then. He's a big guy, but his fastball velocity was not impressive (upper 80s). The next year, in Fort Myers, he added a few mph, and now he reportedly works in the low 90s, occasionally touching 94.

He opened 2014 back at Fort Myers, got promoted to Double A after 13 starts, then moved up to Triple A for one end-of-the-year start. He led the minor leaguers in innings pitched. The 2.67 cumulative ERA is impressive; the 6.5 K/9 rate is not. The increased velocity has not translated into more strikeouts. He does throw strikes.

The Twins chose to protect Wheeler over Sean Gilmartin, another 24-year-old left-handed starter who split 2014 between Double A and Triple A. Gilmartin, a former first-round pick acquired from Atlanta for Ryan Doumit last winter, had a higher ERA and walk rate than Wheeler but a higher strikeout rate. I put more weight on the strikeout rate than on the ERA.

Also exposed to next month's Rule 5 draft: Jason Adam, a right-handed pitcher acquired from Kansas City in the Josh Willingham trade. Adam pitched in the just-completed Arizona Fall League and I think it's safe to say that the Twins weren't impressed enough to open a roster spot for him.

Levi Michael and Niko Goodrum, a pair of middle infielders taken with high draft picks (Michael in the first round, Goodrum in the second) were also left unprotected. I don't think either is likely to be lost.

The Twins don't often lose players in Rule 5. I won't be surprised, however, if Gilmartin gets picked and sticks.

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